Safe Deposit Box

David Fincher's big-budget Panic Room takes too few risks

The extreme wealth represented by the Altmans' elegant pile is another thing that distanced this viewer from Meg. I found myself rooting for the conflicted Burnham, who just wants some bucks (a lot of bucks, actually) to give his kids a better life. Thanks in part to Whitaker's usual well-grounded portrayal, it's his character's fate that matters in the end. Burnham is the one most cheated by the movie's relentless arc.

Final girl stands accused: Jodie Foster in 'Panic Room'
Columbia Pictures
Final girl stands accused: Jodie Foster in 'Panic Room'

Perhaps that was Fincher's intent. Fight Club didn't sell a lot of tickets, and I'm guessing that Fincher was pressured to wow the multiplex crowd with predictable thrills. Panic Room's only surprising elements seem to be postproduction choices: the title credits in a font appropriate for gravestone carving; the heavy (and absurdly unsuspenseful) funeral music; opening shots that peer down on midtown Manhattan and focus on the vulgar billboards. In light of this framing, the typical cautionary story about money and greed becomes something far more harsh: an elegy of sorts, even a confession. The accumulation of great wealth is not a morally neutral activity. Struggling with such inequalities means lives are twisted and sometimes lost--and not only those lives the camera locates in the center of the frame.

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