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Panic Room

Theatrical poster
Directed by David Fincher
Produced by Ceán Chaffin
Judy Hofflund
David Koepp
Gavin Polone
Written by David Koepp
Starring Jodie Foster
Kristen Stewart
Forest Whitaker
Jared Leto
Dwight Yoakam
Patrick Bauchau
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Conrad W. Hall
Darius Khondji
Editing by James Haygood
Angus Wall
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) March 29, 2002 (2002-03-29)
Running time 112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $48 million
Gross revenue $196,397,415

Panic Room is a 2002 thriller film directed by David Fincher, and starring Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker. It also stars Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam, and Kristen Stewart. The film tells a story of a mother and a daughter hiding in a panic room during an invasion by three armed robbers aimed at millions of dollars stored in the house.



Meg Altman (Jodie Foster), recently divorced from the owner of a pharmaceutical giant, and her 11-year-old daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart), who has diabetes, have just purchased a four-story brownstone townhouse on West 94th Street that was previously owned by a disabled, reclusive millionaire. It has a panic room, an isolated room used to protect the owner from an intruder that is protected by a four-inch-thick steel door and an impressive security system, and features a separate phone line. On the night the two move into the home, it is broken into by Junior (Leto), the grandson of the previous owner, and Burnham (Whitaker), an employee of the security company used by the residence. The two are after $3 million in bearer bonds, which is locked inside a floor safe in the panic room. Unknown to Burnham until after they've broken in, Junior has recruited Raoul (Yoakam), a bus driver who lives in Flatbush, to assist in the heist.

After discovering that the Altmans have moved into the home one week before they anticipated, Junior convinces a reluctant Burnham to go on as planned with the heist. However, Meg wakes up and discovers the intruders from the CCTV monitors in the panic room when she wanted to switch off its glaring light. Before the three can stop her, she runs to Sarah, wakes her, and they escape to the panic room.

The Altmans make several attempts to call for help, including signaling a nearby neighbor (whom they can only see through the opening of a ventilation pipe) with a flashlight and tapping into the main telephone line to call for help (because Meg has not yet hooked up the panic room's phone). Only one works; the two get through to Meg's ex-husband and Sara's father, Stephan, before the burglars cut them off. To make matters worse, Sarah suffers a seizure due to hypoglycemia caused by her diabetes and unfortunately her emergency glucose syringe is in the refrigerator, located in her bedroom upstairs.

When all attempts to get into the room fail, Junior, who's been burned on his forearm and part of his face, lets it slip that there is much more money in the panic room than he let on, and gives up. Upon trying to leave the house, Junior is shot in the head by Raoul, who forces Burnham, at gunpoint, to finish the robbery. Stephan Altman arrives at the home and is then taken hostage by Raoul and Burnham. Raoul severely beats him. They then use the unconscious Altman to trick Meg (who is desperate to get the glucose syringe for Sarah) into momentarily exiting the panic room. Raoul ambushes her and a brief struggle ensues which ultimately results in Raoul, whose fingers are crushed by the sliding steel door, and Burnham becoming trapped in the panic room with the critical Sarah, and Meg outside with Raoul's gun. However Meg was able to throw in the glucose syringe in time and begs the two intruders over the intercom to give Sarah the injection, which Burnham, being the more humane of the two, later does.

However, two police patrolmen arrive, having received a call from Stephan earlier. With Sarah trapped with the two burglars, and Raoul threatening to kill her, Meg lies to the officers. Meanwhile, Burnham gets to work on the safe and obtains the bearer bonds, worth $22 million. As the duo attempt to leave while using Sarah as a hostage, Meg and the badly injured Stephan attack them. After an intense struggle, Burnham flees while Raoul prepares to kill Meg with a sledgehammer. However, upon hearing Sarah's screams of terror, Burnham doubles back and kills Raoul, which delays him enough that he gets caught by the police who return as the earlier patrolman was suspicious at Meg's behavior. As they approach, he releases the bonds, letting them fly off into the night and kneels in surrender.

Following the trouble with the home invasion Meg and Sarah begin searching for a new house in the newspaper.

Production and release

Though the movie is set in New York City, in reality it was primarily filmed in Los Angeles, California. Released in March 29, 2002, it made US$95,308,367 at the box office.[1]

David Prior, the producer of Panic Room's DVD, noted that the film was the "most elaborate, complex DVD I have yet produced". According to Prior, David Fincher originally conceived Panic Room as a low-budget B-film, but during the process it evolved into "a gargantuan undertaking that tested the endurance and tenacity of everyone involved".[2]

Director David Fincher agreed that the film's production was indeed an arduous project, remarking it as a "logistical nightmare". He said that the lighting issue during the filming process was a particular difficulty due to the complexity with the security cameras used in the mansion that send surveillance images to the television in the panic room.[3]

In the DVD audio commentary for the film Panic Room, screenwriter David Koepp says the idea for the film originated from a New York Times article;[4] in the article and his other research sources, the rooms were always referred to as a "safe room", which was the original title of his screenplay. Realizing it didn't sound engaging enough to be a thriller, he changed the title and all references in the screenplay to "panic room".

Cast and characters

  • Jodie Foster as Meg Altman – A single mother living with her daughter, Sarah. Her husband, Stephen, cheated on her with a woman only referred to as "Her" by Sarah. As a result, Meg and Stephen are divorcing. Following the intense night of hiding in the panic room with her daughter, Meg manages to foil the plans of the invaders during an ambush attack, which almost leads to her being killed by Raoul.
  • Kristen Stewart as Sarah Altman – An eleven year old living with her single mother, Meg. As made evident by the medicine-filled cooler in her room, Sarah suffers from diabetes mellitus. Later in the film, Sarah becomes hypoglycaemic after being locked in the panic room for too long without food. Near the climax of the film, Sarah is rescued by Burnham, who supplies her with her medication (glucagon) to save her from a hypoglycemic coma.
  • Forest Whitaker as Burnham – A pacifistic security company employee who is pulled into the scheme of breaking into the brownstone to steal money from its previous inhabitant. After realizing that the Altmans had moved into the house before they were scheduled to, he decides to back out, but is pulled back by Junior. During the heist, he makes several references to his son, and it's implied that Burnham planned to use his cut of the profits to put his son through college. He makes numerous attempts to lure the Altmans out of the panic room using non-violent but somewhat lethal methods. All of his plans are either foiled or made too extreme by Junior and Raoul. He nearly manages to escape from the house with the bank bonds in tow, but hears the screams from Sarah and returns to the house to prevent Raoul from killing Meg. He gets Raoul's gun and shoots him in the back of the head, killing him and then leaves after reassuring Meg and Sarah that they will be alright. He is eventually caught by the SWAT teams that storm the house, dropping the bank bonds in the process.
  • Jared Leto as Junior – A fast-talking, short-tempered methamphetamine user. He is the mastermind behind the home invasion who believes that millions of dollars left by the previous resident of the house, his uncle, is hidden in a safe within the panic room. After discovering the Altmans' presence in the house, he devises a plan with his cohort, Raoul, to "take care of" them while he and Burnham find the money. This plan are eventually foiled after the Altmans hide in the panic room. He goes to great, and inevitably badly ending, lengths to enter the panic room. After being burned during an attempt to lure out the Altmans, he decides he wants to back out from the entire operation, getting into a fight with Raoul and Burnham. He is eventually killed by Raoul, who shoots him in the eye when he attempts to leave the house and abort the operation.
  • Dwight Yoakam as Raoul – According to Junior, he is a "bus-driver from Flatbush". He is an unknown, pulled into the invasion operation by Junior at the last minute without Burnham being aware of it. Raoul arrives at the house toting a silenced pistol and wearing a kevlar vest, ski-mask and latex gloves, which leaves the bus-driver comment under question. Raoul seems to have a very destructive nature (Burnham refers to him as "Joe Pesci" at one point), choosing to attempt luring out the Altmans using violence or otherwise destructive methods, such as smashing a ceiling apart with a sledgehammer to enter the panic room from the floor, or turning up the natural gas used by Burnham to "send them a message", ultimately leading to Meg's retaliation with a lighter, burning Junior. Raoul is heavily injured by the end of the movie, losing his reputation as a suave-secret agent type when he gets his fingers crushed in the panic room door. At the end of the movie, Raoul is left by Burnham after they are ambushed by Meg. He attempts to kill Meg with a sledgehammer, but he's killed by Burnham shooting him in the back of the head with his own gun.
  • Patrick Bauchau as Stephan Altman – Meg's husband. After receiving a phone call from Meg, who attempts to tell him about the intruders, he calls the police and goes to the house. There, he is viciously attacked by Raoul, who beats him on camera in an attempt to draw out Meg and Sarah. He survives after Meg attacks Raoul and Burnham, leading up to the end of the film.

Actress Nicole Kidman was originally to star in the role of Meg Altman, but had to back out due to a knee injury she sustained during the filming of Moulin Rouge!.[5] However, she did add her voice to the movie portraying Stephen Altman's girlfriend and talking with Meg Altman on the phone. According to Buddy TV the original choice for Sarah Altman was Hayden Panettiere, but the role went to Kristen Stewart.[citation needed]

Maynard James Keenan of the rock band Tool was in passing offered the role of Raoul, by the director, but nothing came of it.[6]


The film receives 76% positive reviews from the reviewers affiliated with the website Rotten Tomatoes, and the site's "consensus" commented the film as a "well-crafted, above-average thriller".[7] Roger Ebert gave Panic Room a three out of four stars rating.[8]

Jodie Foster was nominated for the 2003 Saturn Award Best Actress for her role as Meg Altman, but did not win.[9]


The film's score was released in 15 April 2002 on Varese Sarabande records. The album contains nine cues, running 30:09.

  1. "Main Titles"
  2. "Caution – Flammable"
  3. "Working Elevator"
  4. "Fourth Floor Hallway"
  5. "Locking Us In"
  6. "Castle Keep"
  7. "What We Want is in That Room"
  8. "Zone 19 Disabled"
  9. "A Very Emotional Property"

Howard Shore, the Canadian composer known for the scores of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, composed and conducted the score. It was a smaller project undertaken by Shore shortly after completion of The Lord of the Rings scores, and was remarked to be one of Shore's "darkest, most brooding thrillers".[10]


  1. ^ Panic Room - details. Yahoo film.
  2. ^ Prior, David. Panic Room DVD Production Journal. The Digital Bits. April 5, 2004.
  3. ^ Collura, Scott. David Fincher's Club. April 02, 2002.
  4. ^ Trivia for Panic Room (2002) on IMDB
  5. ^ Angulo, Sandra P. and Justine Elias. Nicole Kidman drops out of "The Panic Room". Entertainment Weekly. Jan 26, 2001
  6. ^ Panic Room. IMDB.
  7. ^ Panic Room, Rotten Tomatoes.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger. Panic Room. March 29, 2002.
  9. ^ Awards -- Panic Room. IMDB.
  10. ^ Panic Room. Filmtracks.

External links



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