If there is one type of movie which I really enjoy it’s the “claustrophobic thriller.” From Hitchcock’s Rope to Wait Until Dark to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, each film is wildly different, but are similarly marked by their small casts and confined settings. Each film sucks me into the tension and palpable suspense and make for edge-of-your-seat viewing. David Fincher’s 2002 Panic Room is a film of this distinctive sub-genre and surely ranks as one of the best.
Panic Room takes the idea of this kind of thriller and beautifully executes it in a stylish, thoroughly modern way. The cinematography is, at times, simply breathtaking; panning through the walls and floorboards of the New York City brownstone which serves as the film’s main setting. This kind of opulence makes Panic Room feel rich and different; a film which uses the technology at its disposal to only heighten the tension and suspense and, for that, the movie should be applauded.
If it were only for its ingenious use of the camera, Panic Room could be put down as a triumph of style over substance, but its cast – headed by Jodi Foster, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Kristen Stewart (showing more emotion on screen than ever) - add to the film in no small measure. It’s the engaging performances from Foster and Stewart which help us to identify with their characters and make clear just what a truly terrifying situation they are in and help make Panic Room’s arguably over-the-top final act a bit easier to swallow.
While, to me, Wait Until Dark will forever be the finest example of this type of thriller, Panic Room comes close in achieving the same sense of claustrophobia and sheer terror which the 1967 film reached, and there were times when it felt as if Panic Room was deliberately paying homage to its predecessor. For edge-of-your-seat entertainment, Panic Room is surely a fine example.