David Fincher's fifth film, released March 29, 2002. After the pseudo-philosophical dystopian sprawl of Fight Club, Fincher tackled a much simpler conventional suspense piece starring Jodie Foster as a woman defending herself and her child against home invaders. Except for a mind-bending opening credits sequence in which giant names hover ominously over the city, the action is tightly focused entirely within her Manhattan brownstone.
Foster exhibits her trademark personality traits: She is strong, smart, vulnerable yet confident, and eminently watchable. Forest Whitaker has worn, realistic integrity as a burglar who's just doing it for his kids. Jared Leto continues to display range never indicated by his work on My So-Called Life as the crack-smoking motormouth who thinks he's the leader of the gang. And Dwight Yoakam is unrecognizable as the most frightening of the three, with even more casual menace and dry wit than he showed in Sling Blade. Newcomer Kristen Stewart gives an excellent understated performance as Foster's withdrawn diabetic preteen. And those are basically all the characters.
The title refers to a secret steel chamber within the apartment designed in case of just such an emergency. Foster and her daughter can watch the thieves on video monitors and survive for days on rations, but the thieves need to draw them out, because the millions they're after are inside. Fincher's signature murky wash of greens, blacks and blues helps to create a mood of tense claustrophobia. The script and editing are excitingly taut, and Fincher's imagination never dulls as he repeatedly uses computer technology to expand how a film camera can move (as with the "photogrammetry" sequences in Fight Club). All in all, it's an involving, impeccably crafted (and notably apolitical) thriller.
With one implausible flaw: When you call 911, you DO NOT get put on hold. Not in New York City.