|Written by||David Koepp|
|Directed by||David Fincher|
|Produced by||Ceán Chaffin|
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Editing by||James Haygood|
|Release Date||March 29,2002|
|Run time||112 minutes|
Panic Room is a 2002 thriller film directed by David Fincher and written by David Koepp. The film stars Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart as a mother and daughter whose new home is invaded by burglars, played by Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, and Dwight Yoakam. Koepp's screenplay was inspired by news coverage in 2000 about panic rooms. The film was Fincher's fifth feature film, following Fight Club (1999).
Panic Room was widely acclaimed.
Recently divorced Meg Altman (Foster) and her 11-year-old daughter Sarah (Stewart) have just purchased a four-story brownstone on the Upper West Side of New York City. The house's previous owner, a reclusive millionaire, installed an isolated room used to protect the house's occupants from intruders. The "panic room" is protected by concrete and steel on all sides, a thick steel door, and an extensive security system with multiple surveillance cameras, a public announcement system, and a separate phone line. On the night the two move into the home, it is broken into by Junior (Leto), the previous owner's grandson; Burnham (Whitaker), an employee of the residence's security company; and Raoul (Yoakam), a ski mask-wearing gunman recruited by Junior. The three are after $3 million in bearer bonds, which are locked inside a floor safe in the panic room.
After discovering that the Altmans have moved in earlier than expected, Junior convinces a reluctant Burnham, who assumed the house was unoccupied, to continue with their heist. As they begin the robbery, Meg wakes up and happens to see the intruders on the video monitors in the panic room. Before the three can reach them, Meg and Sarah run into the panic room and close the door behind them, only to find that the burglars have disabled the telephone. Intending to force the two out of the room, Burnham introduces propane gas into the room's air vents. Raoul, in conflict with Burnham and Junior, dangerously increases the amount of gas. Unable to seal the vents, Meg ignites the gas while she and Sarah cover themselves with fireproof blankets, causing an explosion which vents into the room outside and causes a fire, injuring Junior. The Altmans make several attempts to call for help, including signaling a neighbor with a flashlight through the opening of a ventilation pipe, but the neighbor ignores it. Meg then taps into the main telephone line and gets through to her ex-husband Stephen (Bauchau), before the burglars cut them off. When all attempts to get into the room fail, Junior lets slip that there is much more money in the safe than he let on, and gives up on the robbery. About to leave the house, he is shot by Raoul, who forces Burnham, at gunpoint, to finish the robbery. Stephen arrives at the home and is taken hostage by Burnham and Raoul—who severely beats him. To make matters worse, Sarah, who has diabetes, suffers a seizure. Her emergency glucagon syringe is in a refrigerator outside the panic room. After using an unconscious Stephen to trick Meg into momentarily leaving the panic room, Burnham enters it, finding Sarah motionless on the floor.
After retrieving the syringe for Sarah, Meg struggles briefly with Raoul, who is thrown into the panic room, his gun knocked out of his hand. As Meg throws the syringe into the panic room, Burnham frantically locks himself, Raoul, and Sarah inside, crushing Raoul's hand in the sliding steel door. Meg, who now has the gun, begs the two intruders over the PA system to give Sarah the injection. After some time Burnham, who has shown no interest in hurting either Meg or Sarah throughout the film, gives Sarah the injection. While doing so, he tells Sarah he did not want this, and the only reason he agreed to participate was to give his own child a better life. After Burnham gives Sarah the injection, Sarah thanks him and tells Meg that Sarah is now alright. Having earlier received a call from Stephen, two policemen arrive, which prompts Raoul to threaten Sarah's life. Sensing the potential danger to her daughter, Meg lies to the officers and they leave. Meanwhile, Burnham opens the safe and removes the $22 million in bearer bonds inside. As the robbers attempt to leave, using Sarah as a hostage, Meg hits Raoul with a sledgehammer and Burnham flees. After a badly injured Stephen shoots at Raoul and misses, Raoul disables him and prepares to kill Meg with the sledgehammer, but Burnham, upon hearing Sarah's screams of pain, returns to the house and shoots Raoul dead, stating, "You'll be okay now", to Meg and her daughter before leaving. The police, alerted by Meg's suspicious behavior earlier, arrive in force and capture Burnham, who lets the bearer bonds go; they fly away with the wind. Later, Meg and Sarah, having recovered from their harrowing experience, begin searching the newspaper for a new home.
- Jodie Foster as Meg Altman
- Forest Whitaker as Burnham
- Jared Leto as Junior
- Dwight Yoakam as Raoul
- Kristen Stewart as Sarah Altman
- Patrick Bauchau as Stephen Altman
- Paul Schulze as Cop #1
- Nicole Kidman as Stephen's lover (voice only)
Fincher and Koepp brought together a crew of people with whom each had worked before. The house and its panic room were built on a Raleigh Studios lot. Nicole Kidman was originally cast as the mother, but she left after aggravating a previous injury. Her departure threatened the completion of the film, but Foster quickly replaced Kidman. The filmmakers used computer-generated imagery to create the illusion of the film camera moving through the house's rooms. Foster became pregnant during the filming schedule, so filming was suspended until after she gave birth.
The film was commercially released in the United States and Canada on March 29, 2002. It grossed $30 million on its opening weekend. In the United States and Canada, it grossed $96.4 million. In other territories, it grossed $100 million for a worldwide total of $196.4 million. Critics were generally positive or mixed in their reviews. In retrospect, Panic Room has been assessed for its portrayal of childhood and feminism, the elements of video surveillance and diabetes, and its thematic approach to mortality. It does this by forcing Meg to face her fear of tight spaces.
Fincher said he was interested in the script's omniscience and that he was reminded of "the specific subjectivity" of Rear Window (1954). He also saw Panic Room as a cross between Rear Window and Straw Dogs (1971), though he was concerned "a modern audience" would compare Panic Room more to Home Alone (1990) than to Rear Window.
Fincher also saw Panic Room as a crime thriller similar to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), where money is "an object that everyone's after for the wrong reasons". The director was also interested in the story's conciseness of happening in one place and in one night, and how the screenplay was well-laid out to let the director decide a variety of shots and use of set-pieces. Fincher also saw the project as a way to be "in lock-step with the audience" in a change of pace from his previous films. Though Panic Room is not technically a remake, it somewhat mirrors the plot and characters of Wait Until Dark. The antagonists are three criminals: one who has compassion like Burnham, another who is a hardened criminal like Junior, and one who is a ruthless psychotic like Raoul. The three men charade their way into a blind woman's brownstone apartment in search of a doll filled with heroine, but they realize they have drastically underestimated her wits once they initiate a game of cat and mouse with her.
In a previous draft of the script, the final battle is completely different. As Sarah is being held hostage in the panic room with Raoul and Burnham, Meg gets out of the house, enters the next door house, adjacent to hers, breaks into the panic room through the dividing wall with the sledge hammer and fights with Raoul after Burnham gets the bonds and runs down the stairs. Raoul is killed by the panic room door slamming on his head, and Burnham is shot and killed by the police in the foyer of the house as he is fleeing.
Nicole Kidman was originally cast in the role of Meg Altman and Hayden Panettiere was cast as her daughter, Sarah. Before filming began, Panettiere was replaced with Kristen Stewart as director David Fincher found her "irritating". Then, only eighteen days into filming, Kidman had to leave the film as well, due to a recurring knee injury, suffered during the filming of Moulin Rouge!. Fincher suggested that the studio close the production and collect the insurance, but the studio decided to go on. Jodie Foster was offered the role. She was due to be the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury but withdrew to work with Fincher, with whom she was originally supposed to work on The Game in the role now played by Sean Penn. Foster had only nine days to prepare for the role. Kidman left a small mark in the film nevertheless, however, as the voice of the girlfriend of Foster's husband in the movie, heard answering the phone when Foster's character calls him in a desperate attempt for help.
David Koepp wrote the first draft of the script in six days.