Panic Room is a thriller that starts with a mother and her diabetic daughter moving out of the house of the rich father, Stephen Altman, and, with the man's money, deciding to get a nice, big mansion of a house nearby. The mother, Meg, played by Jodie Foster, is a bit of a recluse who tries to reach out to her daughter Sarah, played by a young Kristen Stewart, and make her feel better about their departure by ordering in food and letting her decide which room she wants. The 11 year-old girl, of course, chooses the bedroom with the partially hidden corridor, a modern day panic room. She sees her mother's attempts at affection as embarrassing, but realizes that her mother's behavior is done out of love, so she lets it slide.
The action begins when a trio of men quietly intrudes into the house in the middle of the night. They have heard it told that the former occupant of the home was an old man with a load of cash in his safe that he left behind. Of course they want it all, not knowing people have moved into their crime scene. Meg and Sarah take shelter in Sarah's "safe" room, scared but with the will to live and fight intact. Too bad the safe with the dough is hidden in their protective location. Thus', the men have to reach out and either try to make negotiations with the mother and her daughter or smoke them out, as it is apparently impossible to break in successfully.
One of the men, represented by Jared Leto, is the supposed leader of the crew who is domineering but strangely naïve, of the ironic name of Junior, depending on the other two to get things accomplished properly, as his own attempts never quite work out the way he wants them to. Just watch his eyes grow as the events around him come to pass, and you might expect him to start gasping or panting away at any moment, his hysteria just barely contained. Nicely done. Dwight Yoakam plays a masked figure named Raoul who barely talks, just stands there, looking threatening, and occasionally spouting a caustic comment to criticize the goings on around him. The role is a mostly static one, with the character's part growing as the movie progresses, but with little to position him as a likeable homebody. The most relatable of the three men, Burnham, is the one played by Forest Whitaker. He is an intelligent man who used to work on the construction of various things, like panic rooms, and made sure that they were impossible to breach. When the other cohorts get themselves into trouble or don't know what to do, he is typically the one to bail them out with his fast, sensible ideas. These ideas stir up the waters and show us what Meg is made of, as well as build up the suspense. One of the thoughts that might come to you is that perhaps Burnham should be the leader, as he is the one doing the heavy lifting, both physically and mentally. But Burnham is a reserved man with different moral views than his colleagues, wishing to get the money and take off from the house without touching or harming the house's two occupants.
I tire easily from attempting to summarize plot points, so let's move on to my opinions. Jodie Foster brings her all to the game, having to restrain herself at times by gritting her teeth, and at other times baring her fangs and spouting off obscene language into an intercom. Excellent performance. Kristen Stewart, though virtually new to the acting game, helps control the mood of the film with her affective mannerisms and vantage points to the movie's surroundings. I've already commented on Mr. Leto. Mr. Yoakam's performance leaves some to be desired, being mostly one-note, but I am able to commend him on being able to be the menace that at times gives the movie a little bit of an edge. Forest Whitaker's trouble character is proficient at injecting some commentary to the action around him by expressing several emotions at once through facial features and stiff body language.
The opening sequence of the film was great at establishing the mood of the film, appropriately playing like the theme montage of The Walking Dead. Irony is well-played throughout, and some plot twists, and the way they are expressed, really grip the viewer. The movie at times threatens to go overboard or become mundane, but manages to right itself shortly after it begins to shake and manages to keep itself relatively on the right track. Yeah, I'd watch it again. It's passable. Recommendation assigned.