Panic Room (2002)

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Released 16-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Teaser Trailer
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 107:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Fincher
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jodie Foster
Forest Whitaker
Jared Leto
Kristen Stewart
Dwight Yoakam
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, YES!! Sony, Mayflower Transit plus others
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    How can a film with a plot that sounds like a yawn, that has a simple premise and a troubled production be any good? I'll tell you how.... David Fincher is involved. After returning to Hollywood with the brilliant Se7en in 1995, Fincher has been one of the most admired and sought after directors in the last seven years. His dark, stylistic and measured directorial vision has meant that his films have been heavily anticipated from both the movie going public and the ever sarcastic and hard to please art house crowd.

    It does not matter what the film is about, Fincher fans will arrive in droves to the box office to see what their hero has churned out this time. Panic Room is one of these films that you need to see simply because it is a Fincher film. Tell me, what else draws you to see a film where the synopsis reads 'Set completely inside an apartment, a mother and her daughter get trapped inside when it is being burgled'? Sounds pretty boring and one dimensional, but attach Fincher's name to it, and suddenly it seems like a playground for the modern master to get our personal fear of claustrophobia pounding in our chest. Throw the irrefutable talents of one Jodie Foster into the mix, and suddenly the film with the simple plot is one of the most exciting prospects of 2002, and one of my most anticipated films of the year.

    David Koepp's screenplay for Panic Room was inspired by the increasing trend of paranoid rich people to install "safe rooms" in their houses, where they can hide in the event of a break in or a kidnap attempt. Panic rooms are impenetrable from the outside and are made from solid steel and concrete. The one depicted in this film has an external phone line and a high end security system installed with cameras around the house. When the new Manhattan apartment of Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) is broken into, they take refuge in their panic room for the duration of the burglary attempt. The problem? What the burglars want is in that room.

   Panic Room succeeds for many reasons. Two of them are named above, but there is also a magnificent supporting cast of Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and the completely sick Dwight Yoakam as Raoul. The length of the film is perfect at 107:21, it has the right mix of comedy and some breathtaking visual shots.

    There are some truly brilliant digital shots in this film that take us inside keyholes, through coffee pot handles, inside torches and into the cement that holds the panic room together. Whether Fincher's style is your cup of tea or not, you must give him credit for his meticulous attention to detail - on show throughout this film as well as 1999's brilliant Fight Club. The action of the many security cameras matches up perfectly with the action that is taking place in the rest of the house - a small detail that was excruciating for the filmmaker throughout production.
 
    Panic Room almost did not get made. After doing amazing amounts of meticulous pre-production, Fincher had to deal with his long time director of photography, Darius Khondji, leaving the production after a dispute with Fincher. Then, after shooting a portion of the film, its original star Nicole Kidman had to withdraw due to an injury sustained while shooting Moulin Rouge. Fincher was ready to pack up and go home, but then came Foster to the rescue - giving up her appointment as president of the Grand Jury at Cannes to take on the production of Panic Room. Interestingly, Nicole Kidman still makes an "appearance" in Panic Room as the voice of Stephen Altman's girlfriend who answers the phone when Meg calls at 60:41. Now you too can show off your movie knowledge like me!

    Even after all these setbacks, Panic Room is an incredibly good film. Fincher's steady hand behind the camera and Foster's amazing talent in front of it makes for a truly professional production that is one of my highlights from the first half of the year.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of Panic Room is superb, and if not for some minor grain, it would be of reference quality.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Fincher uses the full width of his lens to show off the house and to show beautifully framed shots of the actors - to see this film in any other ratio would be an absolute shame and would diminish the film's overall effect on the viewer.

    The shadow detail of this transfer is the highlight for me. Like his other films, David Fincher creates the most wonderful shadow definition - particularly with his dark style, this shadow detail is so important in a fantastic transfer of one of his films. Every shot is beautifully crisp and clear, though some slight grain was noticed throughout the film which caused me some worry. The best places are at 21:07, 21:45, 33:22. With how incredibly dark this film is, it is a fantastic achievement to have a transfer that is this sharp and clear throughout.

    The colours in this film are deliberately dark at all times, and it uses a fairly grey palette. Any bright colours that are evident are beautiful and have a strong definition for the entirety of the feature.

    There are no MPEG artefacts to be found here whatsoever. There are no film to video artefacts and next to no film artefacts, with only a small black mark noticed on the Columbia logo.

    There is an English subtitle for the film, which matches the dialogue on screen fairly well. I watched about 15 minutes of this subtitle. Also available are Dutch, Hindi, and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change found at 53:36. This is the most stunning placement of a layer change I have ever seen. The change happens during the middle of a sentence and swaps straight over with no pause or dropout whatsoever. I watched it about 10 times and could not note the layer change without my layer change indicator on screen. Some older players may show a slight pause at the layer change, but it was completely invisible on my player. A magnificent effort - well done to the mastering team.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Likewise with the video transfer of the film, the audio transfer is the highest standard. The soundtrack has a feeling of quality and strength throughout with wonderful subtle effects in the rear channels and in the subwoofer.

    There are two audio tracks recorded here, with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448kb/s and an English dts soundtrack at 768 kb/s. I listened to both the dts soundtrack and the Dolby Digital soundtrack. In direct comparison, I prefer the dts soundtrack as it has a more refined sound in its bottom end. Let me stress however, that both the dts and Dolby Digital soundtracks are of the highest quality.

    The dialogue quality is brilliant throughout with a very strong and resonant sound for the entire feature. There are no issues with audio sync or any sound dropouts.

    The music in this film is fantastic. Oscar winning composer Howard Shore delivers a beautifully menacing score that is unassuming, but can pack a punch when it needs to.

    The surround speakers are used very effectively with echoed sound effects and during tight claustrophobic scenes. Like Fight Club, Fincher has employed light sound effects to constantly be playing in the rear channels.

    The subwoofer is constantly used as well. Often, there is a low rumble to show a sense of impending danger and fear. It works very well and adds to the dark and scary nature of the film. Its use is very subtle but very effective.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This disc is a "bare bones" edition that has nothing but a trailer present on it. Hopefully Columbia Tristar will rectify this and deliver us a proper DVD version of this film that will give it the treatment it deserves.

    Columbia Tristar seem to have made something of a habit of this recently, where they dangle the carrot for DVD fans with an unsatisfactory disc, while planning to release a "proper" version later that can be badged as a "special edition". Black Hawk Down comes to mind as another recent film deserving of a better offering.

    Hopefully, one day Columbia Tristar will start respecting the people who love and support their product, by once again providing quality packages first time out!  Until then, we will have to wait for the definitive version of this film on DVD... Soapbox back in the cupboard now.

Menu

    This menu is a computer generated reproduction of the panic room with menu choices. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.80:1 and is 16x9 enhanced with a 192kb/s Dolby 2.0 Surround soundtrack.

Filmographies

    Here are filmographies for David Fincher, David Koepp, Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam. Yoakam's surname is misspelled 'Yoakum' on this DVD.

Teaser Trailer

    Running for 1:54, this Teaser Trailer did not, to my recollection, play in Australian theatres. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced with a 192kb/s Dolby 2.0 Surround soundtrack. The first half of the trailer shows digitally produced shots of the panic room with a voice over and then has plenty of shots from the film without any dialogue. It is okay, but does not have the same effect as the theatrical trailer that played in Australian theatres.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

   

Almost a complete dead heat here! After (finally) viewing my Region 1 verion of this film, I felt that both the R1 and R4 editions were pretty much equal in their transfers. The dts soundtrack on the Region 1 version tends to be a bit more aggressive than the Region 4 disc, but the NTSC transfer on the overseas version has a few jerky pans which make it ever so slightly worse than the Region 4. Therefore, as the Region 4 soundtrack is VERY adequate, I would make this disc the version of choice in this case as the video contains less video artefacts.

Summary

    Panic Room is a remarkably well made film that captures the sense of fear shown by the lead characters perfectly. Beautifully shot and with the right amount of gore, comedy and action, this film is an absolute delight.

    The video transfer is almost perfect.

    The audio transfer is simply superb.

    The extras are conspicuous by their absence.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Hugh Fotheringham (what the hell is going on in bio??)
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S525, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm) 16:9. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersJamo X550 Left and Right, Jamo X5CEN Centre, Jamo X510 Surround

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F
Web Wombat - James A
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
region4dvd.net - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))
MovieHole - Clint M

Comments (Add)
R4 Panic Room is Superbit, just not officially. - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
When for the SE? - Craig Andrews
The invisible layer change... - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
layer change - Ron
Hugh Fotheringham - Panic Room - Anonymous
DTS soundtrack - Christian (You may read my bio.)
The ending...? - Kakio (This is my biography)
DTS track was so weak!!! - Pendergast
re:DTS track was so weak!!! - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
3-Disc Special Edition released in Region 1 - Matthew Buchana