Fight Club's Fincher returns with another slice of dark urban gothic in this locked-box story. Foster plays Meg Altman, the recently divorced mother of young diabetic Sarah (Stewart) whose search for a nice New York City pad is solved by the purchase of a seemingly perfect brownstone. Said house is the former home of a paranoid millionaire, and it features an impregnable 'Panic Room' from which the residents can hide out in the event of a home invasion. Of course, Meg and Sarah have barely unpacked before a trio of robbers (Whitaker, Leto and Yoakam) bust in and the Panic Room is put to the test - and what the crooks want is trapped in there with them.
At first a little reminiscent of The Desperate Hours, Panic Room is tightly played by Foster as the brittle and increasingly frantic mother and the young Stewart acquits herself well in only her second feature role. The crims throw predictable but entertaining sparks off one another and it's interesting to see Fight Club alumni 'Angel Face' Leto get a more meaty role. Whitaker is watchable as ever as the conflicted Burnham, but despite the strong components of the movie, Panic Room never reaches the heights of claustrophobia it really should - to be glib, there's lots of room but not enough panic. While it is straight-shooting and engaging, this is still a little too muted for a David Fincher movie, and his over-use of CG-enhanced camera moves in the early acts is just a little too frequent.