Panic Room (2002) - Special Edition

Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Thriller
Columbia || R - 116 minutes - $39.95 || May 30, 2004
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2004-04-09


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: David Fincher
Writer(s): David Koepp (written by)
Cast: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam


Theatrical Release Date: March 29, 2002


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:

    Disc 1:
  • Director Commentary
  • Cast Commentary
  • Writer & Special Guest Commentary


  • Disc 2:
  • 6 Featurettes on the prep phase
  • Interactive Previsualization
  • Shooting Panic Room
  • Makeup Effects Featurette


  • Disc 3:
  • Sequence Breakdowns
  • 21 Documentaries and Featurettes on the Visual Effects
  • "On Sound Stage" with Ren Klyce
  • "Digital Intermediate" and other featurettes dealing with post-production phase
  • Multi-Angle: Scoring Session
  • Super-35 Technical Explanation


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

I have to admit that my overall view of this film did go down somewhat since the last time I saw it (several months ago). While style-wise, it's an incredible achievement that director David Fincher has done, the story does lag in some spots.

Original Review:
David Fincher has propelled himself over the years as one of the best directors out there right now despite only five films and spotty box office numbers. But it's not the numbers that matter to me but the quality of entertainment (Fight Club and Alien 3 withstanding). Fincher's other films: Se7en and The Game demonstrated that Fincher has the possibility of being the master of the thriller genre with two distinctly different types of thrillers. David Fincher now gives us a combination of the two directing styles of The Game and Fight Club with Panic Room.

Panic Room stars Jodie Foster as a soon-to-be divorced mother who moves into an unbelievably spacious apartment in New York that has three floors (possibly four, I lost count). The master bedroom is slightly smaller than the other rooms and that's because there is a secret area named (you'll never guess- that's right! da da da!) the panic room. The room was built in early times to protect the owners from burglars and such. The panic room is encased with several feet of concrete and a thick steel door that is impenetrable (this is never tested, more later). The equipment inside includes a bank of monitors much better than any security system you would see at the Pentagon, a few coolers of convenient medical and fire supplies and a phone line separate from the house.

Meg Altman (Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Stewart) are now settled into their new mansion when in the middle of the night three men break in but did not know someone had moved in yet. The three burglars: Burnham (Whitaker), Junior (Leto) and Raoul (Yoakam) go on with the plan despite the set back. As we already know the mother and daughter make it into the panic room before the baddies got them and the dilemma begins. What these guys are looking for is in the room and they are willing to do anything to get it. Each of the burglars has a skill (or stake) in the heist. But Burnham being a father has is the heart of the trio and refuses to do anything that may kill the tenants. For the sake of a one-note plot I won't divulge what exactly is in the panic room but suffice to say it's worth it.

The acting is quite good with Jodie Foster in top form after a lull in appearances on the big screen but since has come out a genius after turning down 2001's Hannibal. Foster doesn't have much to go on with her role but manages to turn in a job that compliments the suspenseful script. With Foster, young Kristen Stewart has made the Hollywood scene and showed she has the talent to be an asset to any film. Stewart's role is important and it is essential that the child actor be not only talented but also bearable through an entire feature film (something that has doomed a few films at times).

The roles of the three burglars are acceptably one-dimensional and they provide some comedy relief throughout the film. One of the best and most underrated actors, Forest Whitaker lightens the load off the other's backs. Even though we only get a slight glimpse into his Burnham's personal life, we get the idea of why he's doing the job. The other two played by Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam are purely there for greed and thereby. Leto and Yoakam do an amiable job and earn their paycheck.

David Koepp, the man behind Spider-Man and 1997's Stir of Echoes, wrote Panic Room. Echoes is one of my favorite films but was overshadowed by The Sixth Sense which came out the same time of year. His scripts are crisp with many thrilling moments (although here it could have been slightly better) that make him one of the best and reliable screenwriters out there right now. It's only fitting to match Koepp with David Fincher two rising "behind-the- camera" stars in Hollywood. A match made in heaven (in this critic's humble opinion).

While Panic Room is not the best Fincher film (that goes to Se7en) it still is a great addition for the director that I believe could become my generation equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock. Fincher has a ways to go but so far he has yet to make a complete stinker (knock on wood). He uses the same directing style we saw in Fight Club with camera movements through tight spaces and fast motions but this time around he found a script that deserves this solid direction.

Overall Panic Room is a good suspense/ thriller film that may not receive many accolades but deserves a spot as one of the best in a genre. I highly suggest this film for all David Fincher fans and especially those who like thrillers. There are a few questions that comes to one's mind if you think deeply about the plot but if you just accept what you see you will have a good time.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

This is what's it all about. Next to the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, this 3-Disc Panic Room Special Edition was fantastic and very in-depth with how Fincher accomplished some of his ground-breaking shots- one of them dubbed "The Big Shot".

On the first disc you get three commentary tracks including one from writer David Koepp and special guest William Goldman, another from cast members Jodie Foster, Dwight Yoakam and Forest Whitaker and then one from director David Fincher himself. What I liked about each of these tracks was that they rarely crossed over each other- meaning they never really repeat information thereby making each track interesting to listen to.

Personally, I enjoyed the cast one the most even though each of them were recorded separately. And the best one of the group was actually Dwight Yoakam who was very funny and reacted a few times to something Jodie Foster said (I guess he recorded his while listening to Foster's track). Fincher's track was much more technical at times as he explains the camera works and such. The writer's commentary with Goldman was alright. Nothing overly great but still interesting at times.

On disc 2, there are 6 featurettes that cover everything from "previsualization" to "testing". The first was "The Test Phase" which is the basic lighting tests with the cast, some with feathers, the air vent, arm fire, etc. It was actually interesting to watch them go through the very basics to find out what should work in the movie. Not many films of this size really puts this much detail on their DVD (not even some bigger budget films). The other featurette within this "prep" part was a 12 minute study on safe cracking. I would have to say this was one of the weakest parts of the DVD. It wasn't at all interesting to me but it's nice to see that they're covering all ground even though the actual safe-cracking process wasn't very big in the movie.

Within the "previsualization" section, there were four featurettes covering everything from "Creating Previs" which shows the process of the crew basically mapping out the film to a "Multi-Angle" featurette that gives two angles with storyboard & dallies and the previs, plus four audio tracks with production and finished tracks and also two commentaries from crew members.

Next up is a nearly hour long documentary on the making of Panic Room. What this feature shows is how, to use Jodie Foster's description, "meticulous" David Fincher. He apparently does not like any bright colors in his films (especially red, I think) so during scouting and such, he specified that he wanted 20 or so cars on a particular street and all of them needed to be a darker color.

The Make up Effect featurette focuses on a make-up companies work on the film where they created chopped fingers for Dwight Yoakam (which were ultimately not really used much), a broken collarbone and a broken leg. Running at around 9 minutes, this was a pretty good feature although nothing fascinating.

On Disc 3 there are four production sequences where you can view either the script, storyboard, the B-Roll or the tests for the "Phone Jack", "End of Junior", "Hammer Time" and "Burnham Surrounded" scenes. I enjoyed watching the b-rolls more than anything but it's also fun (for an aspiring screen-writer) to read the script as well.

Now, within the post-production section, we get an extensive viewing of just how many visual effects shots there were in this film. There are 20 or so of these featurettes ranging from less than a minute to nearly 20 minutes. Some of them include breakdowns on the "Main Titles", "Thru Bedroom Door", "The Big Shot" (the sequence near the beginning that looks like one shot), "Propane Gas", "The Flashlight" plus many, many more. With a few exceptions, each of these were very interesting and worth looking at. I remember when watching that "Big Shot" sequence, that I wondered how they could get a camera to go across glass without a reflection or go through the handle of a coffee pot.

Also included are still a few more features such as scoring sessions of 4 sequences like the main titles or "Sealing the House". With these, you can choose to view different angles of composer Howard Shore directing the orchestra or just the final sequence in the film, or yet still all of them on the same screen. Quite fun considering its just a musical score!

There are two featurettes on Sound Design and Digital Intermediate which run around 15 and 10 minutes respectively. And then lastly there is a technical explanation on the Super 35 type film which David Fincher uses. It gives some good definitions on what anamorphic widescreen is, or the history and difference of film.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

As usual, both the sound and picture were quite good. David Fincher's unique and dark style still comes across nice and clear and the sound itself was great while listing on my surround sound system. However, unlike the original Superbit release, they did not carry over the DTS track (I presume due to the extra 3 commentaries).



.::OVERALL::.

This is one of the best DVD's I have viewed in a long time. Given this is not a huge movie budget wise, there is quite a lot of things that are combed through for you. Each commentary presents something new and I doubt you'll have any questions on how such and such a scene was done. This is a set that is made for the special features junkies so if you just want the film, then maybe the "Superbit" version might be better for you.

Now, the reason this is not a perfect five (in case you were wondering) is because the movie was not quite as good and there were a few noticeable plot holes that I could not keep out of my mind. Other than that, the features themselves are worth the purchase of this DVD!