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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
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What's the story?
This thriller, in the claustrophobic mode of Rear Window, finds Meg (Jodie Foster), a recent divorcee, and her combative daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart), trapped in the secret vault/bomb shelter/safe room set up by their apartment's previous owner, a paranoid millionaire with a squabbling family. The least favorite cousin, Junior (Jared Leto), has broken into the apartment with the help of security expert Burnham (Forest Whitaker) and tag-along psycho Raoul (Dwight Yoakam). The bad guys want in to the vault, where the old millionaire hid his millions. The girls just want to get out, but the protected phone line inside the room hasn't been activated yet (they just moved in). Meg's inner mama tiger takes over escalates as the burglars take more and more drastic steps to try and enter the impregnable vault, and Sarah moves from being a tough, sullen teen to a tough, sullen, wily teen.
Is it any good?
PANIC ROOM is not a movie about insight into the human condition or subtle, complex characters; this is just a movie about scaring the heck out of you, and it does that very expertly. On the outside, Forest Whitaker gets to play the good bad guy, while Mr. Leto and Mr. Yoakam act progressively more evil.
For a story which should have been a claustrophobic battle of wits, too often it's simply a battle of violence, although there are some riveting action sequences. And while the family dynamics are underdeveloped, the film does show how divorced parents and their children can remain a family even after separation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the characters do to escalate the level of violence, and how acting from emotions as opposed to reason can aggravate problems, no matter how satisfying it may seem at the time. Divorced families will be especially interested in Sarah's father, who has in no way abandoned his daughter.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.