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Film: Panic Room

Raoul: Hey! What is funny about this?... Is this shit funny to you?
Burnham: Well, I spent the last 12 years of my life building these rooms specifically to keep out people like us.

2002 suspense thriller directed by David Fincher and starring Jodie Foster and a young Kristen Stewart. A recently divorced woman and her 12 year old daughter move into a four story Manhattan brownstone which has a fortified "panic room" in case of home invasion. Late at night three burglars (played by Forrest Whitaker, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam) break in looking for $3 million in bearer bonds belonging to the previous owner. The two women lock themselves up in the room, but are unable to call for help. Worse yet, the bonds were stored in the panic room and the burglars have no issue going through the new owners to get them.

A box-office hit upon its release, it introduced the concept of "panic rooms" and "safe rooms" into public knowledge.

This film contains examples of:

  • Anti-Villain: Burnham. It's revealed that the only reason he took the job was because he needed the money to afford a custody lawyer.
  • Artistic License - Chemistry: The propane gas the burglars pour into the panic room (which is then lit by Meg) would fall to the ground instead of sticking to the ceiling as it does in the movie.
  • Artistic License - Medicine: Averted, BUT can be interpreted as one if you are unfamiliar with Type 1 Diabetes. The daughter has diabetes, and when in the panic room they try to find food to give her (which would heighten her blood sugar level) as her blood sugar drops; when they can't find any they give her a shot instead. Many unfamiliar with diabetes think this is an INSULIN shot (which is used to lower the blood sugar). However, she is injected with a drug called Glucogon, which is used to quickly raise a diabetic's blood sugar - so the portrayal is accurate, but can easily be taken as a mistake if you are unfamiliar with diabetes.
  • Ax-Crazy: Raoul.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Junior.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as it looks as though Raoul is going to murder Meg while Sarah watches helplessly, Burnham, who was previously making a getaway with the money, returns and shoots Raoul in the head, after deciding that he can't just let Meg and Sarah die.
  • Big Fancy House: Meg buys the ridiculously huge house for just herself and her daughter to stick it to her rich ex-husband for a messy divorce. It even has an elevator!
  • Book Dumb: Lydia has a moment like this:
    Meg: Ever read any Poe?
    Lydia: No, but I loved her last album.
  • Boom, Headshot: How Junior and Raoul meet their ends.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Junior keeps berating Ax-Crazy Raoul over and over again. Raoul finally ends the bullying with a headshot.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Meg makes a dash into the bedroom and grabs her cell phone, but the walls of the panic room are too thick to get a signal.
  • Closed Circle: Meg and Sarah are trapped in the panic room, and the thieves won't leave until they get the money inside. Later, the situation gets inverted: when Meg attempts to get Sarah's diabetes shots, Burnham and Raoul get inside and lock Meg out. However, Meg also has a gun, and there's only one way out of the room.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: A fair bit of Junior and Raoul's dialogue. Especially when the latter is really mad.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Raoul's treatment of Stephen.
  • Comic Trio: Although they aren't exactly comedic, the burglars fit the role nicely. Junior's the navigator, Raoul is the driver and Burnham's in the backseat.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Burnham has the bonds and is leaving the house, but can't bring himself to leave Meg, Sarah and Stephen to die, so he returns and shoots Raoul down.
  • Cut Phone Lines: The thieves cut the main phone lines of the house to prevent Meg and her daughter from calling out, while the phone in the titular room is on a different line but hasn't been installed yet. However, Junior simply cut the cord of the kitchen phone, not the entire line. Meg manages to jury rig the panic room's phone into the main line and get a call for help out before the thieves disconnect the lines for real.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Evan, the guy showing Meg around the house at the beginning. Also Sarah.
    • Even Raoul gets in the act, when he's still The Stoic.
    *Junior smashes a mirror in frustation*
    Raoul: That's seven years bad luck.
  • The Determinator: Raoul. Despite having his fingers crushed, getting shot, taking a sledgehammer to the face, falling over a railing and hitting the floor, breaking some bones, and getting stabbed by Sarah, he still attempts to kill Meg, until Burnham steps in.
  • Didn't Want an Adventure: A villain variation; the house was supposed to be empty when the burglars came.
  • Drop the Hammer: Meg uses a sledgehammer on Raoul (his attempt to do the same fails).
  • Epic Tracking Shot: From one floor down to another, through keyholes and coffeemakers.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Junior has a one of these, when he discovers to his chagrin that Meg and Sarah are already in the house, he explains that when the realtors told him how many days it would be before they moved in, he assumed they meant business days.
    • Raoul's completely casual murder of Junior. Burnham is understandably horrified.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Most of the film unfolds over a single night.
  • Eye Scream: Raoul has his right eye blown out from behind by Burnham.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Sarah learned "SOS" from Titanic, and attempts to signal a neighbor by flashing it through a vent. It doesn't work.
  • Fingore: Raoul loses at least two of his fingers and most likely broke the rest of them when the panic room door slams shut on them, after he had his hand positioned out of range of the door sensors. Once the loot is scored, we see Raoul pick them up while leaving the panic room.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Burnham is phlegmatic, Junior is choleric and Raoul is melancholic.
  • Genius Bruiser: Burnham is the biggest guy on screen (though he doesn't actually do much fighting), and he is also by far the most intelligent; he shows a level of competence in various fields and a resourcefulness equal to Meg's.
  • Genre Savvy: Generally quite a high level of this is shown by most characters in the film who are not explicitly shown to be quite thick. The only exception being the burglars not breaking the security cameras, though this is lampshaded as a silly thing to have missed.
  • Glad I Thought of It: When Burnham and Raoul begin to hatch their plan with the propane gas, Junior chimes in from the sidelines, "I was just thinking we should do something like this!"
  • Gut Punch: See Raoul's Establishing Character Moment.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Jodie Foster was already a few months pregnant when she started filming. The scene where she answers the door and talks to the cop was filmed last and they put a baggy sweater over her.
  • Hope Spot: Several - one of which being when Meg and Sarah think they might have managed to alert one of their neighbors to their plight... and he simply closes his bedroom blinds in annoyance, believing their signal to be a faulty light.
  • Howl of Sorrow: Meg lets out a howl of despair and rage when Raoul starts to severely beat Stephen, while all she can do is watch helplessly.
  • I Have No Idea What I'm Doing: Meg's response when trying to wire the panic room phone into the main line.
  • Irony: The fact that a panic room Burnham built is keeping him and his crew from accomplishing their burglary. This is not lost on him.
  • The Key Is Behind the Lock: The movie's premise is basically this, but one bit highlights this in particular. When trying to lure out Meg and Sarah by filtering propane gas into the panic room, Burnham warns Raoul not to crank the gas too high. When Junior scoffs that the worst that can happen is that Meg and Sarah pass out, Burnham asks him how they plan to get into the room if the occupants are passed out.
  • Large Ham: Jared Leto as Junior.
  • Lima Syndrome: Two of the housebreakers accidentally end up taking hostages when the supposedly empty house was occupied earlier than expected, and then find themselves locked in the panic room with a girl about to slip into a diabetic coma. One of them is an Ax-Crazy murderer who talks about needing to kill her since she's seen his face, but the other one does everything he can to prevent her getting hurt. In the end, he gives up his opportunity to escape with the loot so that he can rescue the girl and her mother (who had come pretty close to killing him a couple of times) from his deranged accomplice.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Sarah.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Raoul.
  • Mama Bear: Meg.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: Burnham, who refuses to take physical action ("I told you, I don't hurt people") and intervenes when Junior's and Raoul's tactics get out of hand.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Meg is shown going to the toilet in the middle of the night and her urinating is audible.
  • Not Quite Dead: Stephen is assumed dead by Meg, until she discovers that, although badly injured, he's still alive.
  • Oh, Crap:
    Burnham: Turn the gas off. Turn the gas off right now.
    • Sarah has a similar reaction when she realizes what her Mom was about to do.
    Sarah: Oh my God.
  • Only Sane Man: Burnham.
  • Papa Wolf: Stephen Altman.
  • Police Are Useless: Played with and ultimately averted: Meg calls 911, only to be put on hold. She then calls Stephen for help, only for the burglars to cut the cord, but not before Stephen gets suspicious and calls the police himself. They show up and confront Meg at the front door, and do indeed notice that something is horribly wrong. They later return with a SWAT-squad.
  • Precision F-Strike: Meg is so bad at this her twelve-year-old daughter has to tell her how, and even then she screws it up. On the other hand...
    Meg: Put him on the phone, bitch!
    • Sarah gets one early in the movie when Meg is still feeling down about their family situation.
    Sarah: Fuck him.
    Meg: Don't.
    Sarah: Fuck her, too.
    Meg: I agree, but don't.
  • Protect This House
  • Punch Clock Villain: Burnham. And, unlike Junior and Raoul, he refuses to hurt people.
  • Rape as Drama: Early in the movie, Meg and Sarah are in the panic room looking at the intruders on the closed-circuit TV, Sarah asks why the men are there. Meg replied that the robbers may want to rob them or ... something else. She trails off without finishing the thought, but it's clear that (as she doesn't think there's much of particular value in the house), she is worried about being raped.
    • Later, after Sarah has ended up locked in the panic room with the burglars the first thing Meg says after being reunited is "Did they hurt you? Did they touch you?" in a tone of voice that clearly shows how terrified she was that this might have happened.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: When Raoul threatens Junior, Junior scoffs at his tough-guy talk: "Don't start spouting some Elmore Leonard bullshit you just heard because I saw that movie too!" Junior learns too late that Raoul's words were more than just talk.
  • Rule of Cool: The three dimensional opening credits that look like they're floating above various shots of the New York City skyline.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Junior. It is debatable whether Raoul would have actually let him leave anyway, but muttering loudly to yourself information that shows you've been lying to your fellow criminals is not a good idea.
  • Separated-at-Birth Casting: 12 year old Kristen Stewart looked like Jodie Foster when she was that age and plays her daughter.
  • Shower of Angst: Meg, still broken over her husband leaving her, cries in the bathtub.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Junior and Raoul.
  • The Sociopath: Raoul.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Raoul unless he's genuine angry.
  • The Stoic: Raoul... at first.
  • Technicolor Fire: Blue.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Shooting Junior well and truly dead doesn't stop Raoul from putting another bullet into his head, just because he can.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Raoul unlike Burnham who is good hearted and Junior who is too dumb.
  • Trigger Happy: Raoul, although Junior clearly doesn't know just how much of a psychopathic lunatic he really is until it's too late.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Raoul implies that he plans to kill Sarah, and at one point outright threatens to do it. He also punches her across the room in the final fight.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Junior believes he's the Diabolical Mastermind, that Raoul is the Dumb Muscle and Burnham is The Smart Guy. Turns out, he was only right about the last one.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Meg and Burnham are quite well matched in this regard, and engage in a lot of this as they try to outmaneuver each other.


Orange CountyFilms of 2000 - 2004 The Pianist
NewsRadioCreator/Mill Creek EntertainmentThe Partridge Family

alternative title(s): Panic Room
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