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EDITIONS
Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
The Panic Room
The Panic Room

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


MARK LAWSON:
Bonnie, the message is that money can't protect you from the outside world. Pretty timely message, but is it also done thrillingly?

BONNIE GREER:
This is the old lady in distress film. A staple of Hollywood, with an A, B, C, D kind of script. Act one, get in the Panic Room. Act two, the panic. Act three... and so on.

What's thrilling about it is that it's directed by David Fincher, one of the best Hollywood directors right now and a great old expressionist tradition of Hollywood directors. It keeps you pretty much hooked.

And the great Jodie Foster, who is going to age before our eyes on the screen. Eventually, she is going to be one of the only child stars, bar Elizabeth Taylor, to actually grow up.

MARK LAWSON:
Philip, I thought he was setting himself a challenge, saying he is famous for moving the camera and he can do it in this one house?

PHILIP HENSHER:
If you judge the movie by the same standards as a music video, yes. I found this a resonant movie. Rubbish, but resonant. It does have all those September 11th themes.

You can have as much money as you like, but still there are going to be people with a brownish tinge out there who are going to come and get you, and the police or the UN aren't going to be any help at all.

The trouble with this film is it doesn't really obey its own rules. It keeps breaking the set-up from the beginning.

At the beginning, you are told that you can talk out of the Panic Room, not in. Suddenly, half an hour later, Jodie Foster is talking into the Panic Room, and at another point, the burglars go round sealing up all the exits.

Half an hour later, suddenly Jodie Foster opens the front door. The whole point of a thriller is you have the rules and you have to follow them. This breaks them and the tension just dissipates.

NATASHA WALTER:
It doesn't have the deep emotional charged shock, because as soon as you see this Panic Room in this house, you basically know you are going to spend the next two hours locked in it with Jodie Foster.

Without giving away the ending, there is a real problem with the ending. It doesn't have the kind of cathartic denouement that you need from this kind of genre suspense film.

To say it has unfinished business, is putting it mildly. The Forest Whitaker character set up as semi-sympathetic, a complex criss-cross character, and is completely left hanging.

BONNIE GREER:
I agree with you, but this is an entertainment movie. It's a big hit in America. One of the reasons it is because it has signals in it that all Americans can relate to.

There is the after the September 11th panic. There is the idea of this room, where most Americans feel that there is a place that we can all go to, where we can protect ourselves. We can nuke a country and actually we will survive.

NATASHA WALTER:
Didn't you find that deeply off putting? If the entertainment doesn't grab you, I found that sense of the inward-lookingness, the paranoia...

BONNIE GREER:
But you got it, that's exactly what America is about now. That's exactly why the movie is a success, because it's not about the story but about the feelings within the story.

MARK LAWSON:
I thought it was rather more subtle than that. If you imagine this theatre full of very angry Americans, wanting I suspect an outcome in which something really horrible happens - it's much more subtle than that.

It's even suggested that the thing to do is to be kind and nice to people in order to survive.

PHILIP HENSHER:
It's nonsense. All the efforts to whip up a bit of support for Forest Whitaker, there is this ludicrous moment when he is saying, "It could be me".

Yes, if you married a pharmaceuticals billionaire and had a child - it's nonsense.

BONNIE GREER:
But what it's really about - it's a plausible way in the context of the culture. That's all I am saying.

PHILIP HENSHER:
The basic problem is that they can't see how difficult it is to make this movie and get sympathy for someone who is just filthy rich.

MARK LAWSON:
I enjoyed the way it was setting itself challenges all the time. It works better as a pitch than as a script. Certainly. It's a brilliant central idea. But then when do you let them come out and so on, it's thrilling.

PHILIP HENSHER:
It's all too many drafts. You can see things that were going to become big deals. Like the claustrophobia thing, she has that, and it's made a big deal of at the beginning and then they forget all about it.

BONNIE GREER:
But the camera work is stunning.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Panel
02 May 02 | Panel
02 May 02 | Panel
02 May 02 | Panel
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