I see I've come a little late to the Panic Room
SPOILERS discussion. Well, I'll start by saying that I think this is the best Fincher movie to date, and I don't mean to damn the movie with faint praise like Wardpet does; in the past, unfairly or not, you could make the case that a pretentious streak ran through Fincher's stylish and well made thrillers (which is a charge that could be thrown at any intellectually ambitious director), but I felt that this trait was largely absent from Panic Room
(I'll have to admit that I never really picked up on the feminist or anti-gun interpretation of the film; I did notice, however, that the film did not end in the reconstitution of the nuclear family, which is common in such scenarios where divorced, seperated, or bickering parents reconcile during the moments of tension, or to save their child). Panic Room
is mostly concerned with being a thriller, just a thriller; personally, I would eschew an ironic reading of the film, one that sees the use of generic conventions and archetypes as knowing (or more to the point, mocking), and thus subversive and deconstructive (not that this is the proper sense of the term, thank you Noel Burch!). You could then say that any film that has utilizes generic conventions and archetypes in complex, funny, or novel ways, for example, could be read as an ironic comment on the genre or movies itself (in the pre-postmodern period, we would just say that the movie transcended it's generic roots, but I don't like this either, because it is condescending to the genre itself). I don't see anything particularly out of the ordinary: Jody Foster as a woman, who at first, while intelligent, is lacking self-confidence (and who is claustriphobic, which McBain, I think correctly points out, is not utilized very well), which she finds in protecting herself and her child (J. Hoberman in his review of the film notes that this kind of plot was exemplified back in 1909 by DW Griffith in The Lonely Villa
); the kid (who is admittedly updated for a 21st century audience) who desperately needs medicine; the absent father who comes to the rescue only to be cut down, all the while screaming "Don't Open the Door!"; the "smart" guy with all the plans, who is actually pretty dumb; the resourceful yet conflicted criminal; the loose-cannon psycho who was hired on at the last minute; the set-up; the MacGuffin of the money, etc., etc. Personally, I don't think it is necessary to resort to an ironic reading to enjoy a genre film; I think it is harder to make a straight-up, successful genre film than it is to make a subversive or transgressive statement. Thus ultimately, the film, and this is not to be taken as somehow dismissive, must be taken at face-value as a technical excercise; I was never in doubt the entire time that the film would end up the way it did (I could have went to the film with a checklist if I wanted to), but Fincher was able to keep my attention and engage me emotionally in the drama, the suspense (my favorite scene was when she ducked out of the room to get the cell phone, and yes, they could see Burnham go downstairs on the monitors before she opened the door; another was the scene where Jody Foster confronted the police), the sheer stylistic tour de force; the dialogue was enjoyable, it was frequently funny, and fit the characterizations perfectly, and the acting was great, especially Foster and Forest Whitaker (seeing him as Burnham, I was never in doubt that he would do the right thing in the end, especially given his motives).
One thing about the husband though, since this seems a point of contention; yeah, he does get the crap kicked out of him (genre point: torture a loved one, even an estranged one, to try to get them to come out while he selflessly cries out for them not to open the door), but I hardly think this descends into man-hating. It was far to brutal for me to be a comeuppance, especially when delivered with the sociopathic menace of Dwight Yoakam; plus, in the moral equations that an audience has to make at the time of the viewing, I think that his coming over to the house after his daughter says that the new girlfriend won't let him, plus the before mentioned self-sacrifice, and his aiding in Meg's plans (where he is second-fiddle), equals out any infidelity.