Thursday, March 3, 2016

Not-so-Safe House

Panic Room
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam, Kristen Stewart
Released: March 29, 2002
Viewed in theaters: April 6, 2002


This is one of those movies that take place all within 24 hours and pretty much within the same location. No, not just the panic room, but the entire brownstone home the panic room is in. The movie starts with single mother, Meg (Jodie Foster) and her eleven-year-old daughter, Sarah (a pre-Bella Swan (and therefore more tolerable!) Kristen Stewart) looking at a gigantic four-story brownstone home in New York's Upper West Side. Needless to say, Meg must have gotten a lot of money from her rich ex-husband in the divorce, because, damn, that house is humongous for just two people! We are introduced to the panic room within the first five minutes when the realtor shows it to them. It is connected to the master bedroom and is made of steel and concrete which surrounds it on all sides. It looks to be a little bigger than a walk-in closet and has a toilet (extremely important!), a security system that includes surveillance cameras and screens that show every room in the house (and since there are about a hundred rooms, there are a hundred screens!), a separate phone line, and a PA system. And to make sure nobody can get in, a heavy steel door that can only be opened from the inside. 

Okay, so I guess the entire movie doesn't take place within 24 hours because I'm sure it took a few days for them to sign the papers and move in, but once they are moved in (and this all happens within the first 15 minutes of the movie, THEN the movie takes place within 24 hours, hell it takes place in one night!) Since they have just moved in, the house is pretty bare, it is mostly filled with boxes that have yet to be unpacked. The whole color palette of the movie is very muted neutral colors like whites, grays, and blacks. The entire look of the house is very drab, but I suppose it helps to set the tone of the movie. 

Meg and her daughter have moved in earlier than expected and this is bad news for them and the three men who are planning to rob their home because they know there is three million dollars in bonds in that house, more specifically, they know it's located in the panic room. They are played by Whitaker, Leto, and Yoakam. Burnham (Whitaker) is a manufacture of the same kind of panic room that was installed in this house and know how they operate; Junior (Leto) is the grandson of the previous owner of the brownstone and therefore knows about the bonds; and Raoul (Yoakam) is the ski-masked man brought in by Junior to help them out without the knowledge of Burnham. They easily break into the house without either female hearing anything since the place is so damn huge! There's some cool shots of the camera going through the keyhole of the front door. Burnham is the first to break in and quickly notices the tenants have moved in earlier then scheduled and wants to back out, but Junior refuses. 

Meg wakes up around this time to use the bathroom. She uses the panic room for light (wouldn't it just be easier to turn on a bedside lamp?) and doesn't notice the three men on one of the screens until she comes back to her room and goes to turn off the light. She runs to grab Sarah and the three men try to stop them as they go into the elevator (yes, there's an old-fashioned elevator in their new home!) Sarah tells her mom they need to go to the panic room and of course they both manage to get in and shut the door right before the burglars reach them. Meg immediately goes for the phone to call the police only to discover this particular phone line hasn't been set up yet. She uses the PA system to tell the men that they need to leave and that she has just called the police. Calling her bluff, Burnham tells Junior that he knows for a fact that the phone lines have not been hooked up...as none of the other phone lines in the house have been hooked up either. Since Meg and Sarah can't hear them, Burnham grabs a notepad and writes that what they have come for is in the room they're in, but Meg has let them know that they are not coming out no matter what and to get out of their house. There's a funny moment when Meg tells her to say "f***" and Meg screams the expletive and Sarah says, "No, Mom, say "Get the f*** out of our house" so Meg has to say the line right this time. 

Junior starts to scream at Burnham, asking him how they can get in there and Burnham tells him that if they could get in there, he would never have a job since the whole reason of a panic room is not letting anybody in! He says they have to figure out a way to get them to come out. Junior and Raoul start to whack away at the bottom of the panic room (and you better believe this house will be trashed by the end of the movie!), but Burnham tells them that even if they get through the concrete, they still have a thick shield of steel to get through. He has a much better idea where he will pump gas from the propane gas tank into the air vents. Raoul goes to turn the gas on even more but Burnham tells him they just need enough to scare them, but Raoul refuses to turn it down. 

Meg and Sarah are able to find a very tiny window they can breathe through for air. Meg is trying to duct tape the vent and she is near the vent for quite awhile that it's a miracle she didn't pass out! When it's clear the tape isn't going to help them, she decides to go another way. She throws Sarah a fire blanket, tells her to "get down" and takes a lighter and ignites a huge fireball that travels through the vents. The guys can hear something is going on and Junior stupidly presses his head against the wall and I'm thinking, Oh, Jared Leto, please get your pretty, pretty face away from there! The fireball (which is so obviously fake, but I'm sure looked realistic in 2002!) hurdles through the vents and burns Junior's face. Ouch. Needles to say, he is pretty enraged. 

Sarah starts using a flashlight to send SOS signals and when her mom asks her where she learned that, she replies, "Titanic" which I thought was funny and made sense. The shades are up in the house across the street and you see the guy get up and saunter over to the window. You can tell he's more annoyed by the flashing light than worried about what it might mean and he pulls his shades down. 

                                                     There's a tense scene where Meg makes an attempt to grab her
cell phone which she last left on her bedside stand. When she sees their intruders are all downstairs having a heated conversation, she makes a run for it. In the ransack the burglars have done to their home, her bedroom is a mess and her phone is not on her bedside table and she has to take a few minutes to find it. She discovers it under her bed and is reaching for it (reminds me of when I'm trying to get my cat when I need to take him to the vet and he has hidden under the bed (oh, he knows when he's going to the vet!) and I have to reach with all my might to grab him because he's right dab in the middle! And at least phones don't move even further back when you try to reach for them!) While she's reaching for it, she knocks over a lamp and the three men start to hightail it up back to the master bedroom and just miss her by a hair.

Meg calls 9-1-1 but when the operator answers, she says, "Please hold." What the hell? Since when does 9-1-1 put you on hold? So instead she calls her ex and his new girlfriend answer. Fun trivia: the voice is provided by Nicole Kidman who was suppose to be in this movie, but had to back out. This isn't one of those movies where only one certain person was born for this role, so I would have loved to have seen it with Kidman, great as Foster is. Meg barely has time to tell her ex that there are intruders in her house when the phone goes dead. He gets the message and arrives at the house just minutes after Raoul has shot and killed Junior. They show her ex on the cameras as leverage to make them come out. It is only when Sarah, who has diabetes, goes into a coma shock and Meg needs to grab her insulin. She thinks the coast is clear and that her ex's limp body is the one near the bedroom, but it was actually Raoul wearing her ex's coat and he and Burnham get into the panic room with a nearly comatose Sarah. Raoul gets his hand stuck in the door as it's closing and Meg pleads for Burnham to give Sarah the shock which he does because he's the only of the three men who has a conscious.

The police arrive because Meg's ex had called them and Meg has to talk them away and tell them everything's okay. The two men find the millions in bonds (and now they only have to share them two ways instead of one, but that won't last for long as we'll soon find out!) They use Sarah as a hostage as their way to get out. Burnham manages to escape, but Meg has whacked Raoul in the head with a sledgehammer and he falls over the railings, but somehow manages to climb back up the stairs and starts to attack Meg. Sarah, who has her insulin needle, leaps onto him to jab the needle in him, but he just flings her into the fireplace like she weighs nothing. We see Burnham is about to climb over the fence, but he hears the struggle and screaming of the two women inside and goes back to help them. It's a good thing to because he is able to kill Raoul seconds before Raoul is about to kill Meg. The police, who must not have wandered very far, come back and arrest Burnham. He may not have gotten the money, but I do hope his sentence was shortened since he DID save their lives....sure they would never have been in this mess if they never decided to rob them in the first place, but it was established early in the movie that he was never a bad guy...mostly just a greedy one. He never wanted to hurt anyone while Junior and especially Raoul didn't care if anyone died. The police never recover the bonds, instead they get blown away by the wind so the neighbors will find a nice surprise in the morning!

And after living in their house for one night, they decide to move! I hope they found something a little more suitable for only two people! 

1 comment:

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