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Meg Altman, a divorcee, and daughter Sarah too
Are looking for apartments, and they go to see a few.
One spacious, multi-level dwelling catches their attention;
It has a hidden panic room for robbery prevention.
They stake their claim and move right in, but, on their premier night,
Three robbers, who don’t know they’re there, give Meg an awful fright.
She gets her daughter in the room, and, locked within its walls,
They watch on some surveillance screens the house’s rooms and halls.
The thieves attempt to break inside and fail, but do not leave.
It seems the panic room holds cash they came there to retrieve.
They try to gas the owners out; that plan comes down in flames.
(Before I go on anymore, I ought to give their names.)
The “mastermind” behind the crime is Junior, who lets out
There may be more to steal than he had told his pals about.
He tries to leave, but then Raoul, a psycho in a mask,
Shoots him dead and tells the other to get back to his task.
This Burnham, who installs these rooms, is just a desperate guy,
Who finds he’s in over his head but is forced to still comply.
When Meg’s ex-husband, whom she called before the line went dead,
Shows up, he’s taken prisoner and pummeled in the head.
When diabetic Sarah needs a shot of glucagon,
Meg tries to go retrieve it when she thinks the thieves are gone.
But that is when they sneak inside and now lock Meg without,
So she locks door, preparing only one departure route.
Once Burnham kindly gives the shot to Sarah, who responds,
He locates several million dollars’ worth of bearer bonds.
Raoul and he attempt to flee the home when Meg attacks,
But bad Raoul fights back and almost kills her in her tracks.
It’s Burnham, though, that saves them when he sees they won’t prevail.
That’s when police arrive and take the remaining thief to jail.
So in the end, the bonds are lost to both good and bad guy,
And Meg and Sarah seek another home (I wonder why).
________________
 

Since Panic Room is the first R-rated film on this list, I feel I must point out that I abhor foul language. I mention this because, in addition to several other profanities, there are about 70 F-bombs in Panic Room, every single one of which was totally unnecessary. As a Christian, profanity bothers me personally as an affront to God, but, as a film lover, I also think it cheapens the film as a whole, showing a lack of imagination on the part of the writers since they can’t think of anything better to say than F this and F that. All it does is alienate a potential audience (young people and people like me) and distract from what is otherwise an excellent film.

The plot is suspenseful throughout, especially whenever Meg ventures out of the panic room, but, what could easily have been a simply told tale of three robbers sitting outside a room trying to think of a way inside is given surprising depth, mainly from Forest Whitaker as Burnham, who never wanted anyone to get hurt. As the most sympathetic of the thieves (and in the end, the “hero”), he makes the audience sad that a guy just trying to take care of his kids made such poor choices. The other two get what’s coming to them as the real antagonists.

The cinematography and direction are superb with long computer-generated camera shots sweeping through walls and impossibly small spaces, creating a feeling analogous to the house, spacious yet simultaneously claustrophobic. Several parts are fascinating to watch, from the elevator scene when Meg initially tries to escape with Sarah, to the propane scene where the camera follows the ventilation shaft to the panic room. The characters are entirely believable as well, with Jodie Foster as a distressed but resourceful mother and Kristin Stewart proving she was a better actor before she grew up. Forest Whitaker is nevertheless the best thespian of the bunch.

All that said, it is not without flaws. Watching it, my VC and I couldn’t help but wonder why two people needed such a big “townstone” in the first place. Plus, the police rushing in at the last minute was poorly convenient with little explanation as to why they suddenly returned with a SWAT team. I also thought that it could have ended on a better note, perhaps with Meg thanking Burnham and Burnham apologizing. Still, despite the violence and language, it’s an excellent thriller. I first saw a cut version on TV, and I would suggest others see it that way. It’s much more entertaining without the foul mouths.

Best line: (Meg to Sarah) “It’s disgusting how much I love you.”
 
Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 6
Originality: 4
Watchability: 5
Other (Language): -7
 
TOTAL: 27 out of 60
 

Tomorrow – #357: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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