Trapped in their New York brownstone's panic room, a hidden chamber built as a sanctuary in the event of break-ins, newly divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart),play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with three intruders--Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) and Junior (Jared Leto) -- during a brutal home invasion. But the room itself is the focal point because what the intruders really want is inside it.
The three-disc special edition of Panic Room is a virtual film school that raises the bar on explaining everything that goes into the making of a movie. Everyone interviewed mentions how director David Fincher is a stickler for details, and it shows in this set, which even tops the loaded two-disc release of his Seven and more than makes up for the lack of features on the earlier Superbit DVD release. The second disc is mostly devoted to the pre-production process, particularly the "previs"--animated storyboards--that were used at a level unprecedented for a live-action film. Also noteworthy is a 52-minute production documentary comprised of good interview and "fly on the wall" footage. The third disc is anchored by 20 visual-effects featurettes totaling about an hour and a half (a play-all option would have been nice), plus scene breakdowns, spotlights on sound design and scoring, and more. A text-and-diagram explanation of Super-35 film gets a bit technical for the casual film fan, but offers useful insight into such oft-mentioned terms as "anamorphic widescreen," "pan and scan," and "matting."
The three commentary tracks accompanying the main feature are all excellent. Fincher offers background information and insight into his filmmaking process, and insists that his movie shouldn't be taken too seriously ("We're not curing cancer; we're just making a movie with actors pretending to be burglars"). Jodie Foster has the most to say on the actors' commentary, but Dwight Yoakam and to a lesser extent Forest Whitaker also contribute. They were recorded separately, though Foster and Yoakam acknowledge each other's comments now and then. Writer David Koepp is joined on his commentary by a "special guest" (hint), a fellow screenwriter who in an interesting interplay peppers Koepp with questions and prods him for answers. Everyone discusses the differences between Foster and the originally cast Nicole Kidman, but there's only one brief glimpse of a Kidman scene in the supplemental material. The DTS track is the biggest loss from the Superbit DVD, but the Dolby 5.1 track is powerful and immersive. --David Horiuchi