Bored in isolation? Here’s three early-2000s thrillers about people trapped in a location

by Nick Gonzales

If you’re like us, you’ve now lost count of the days you’ve been in self-isolation – but you’re not actually alone. You’re semi-quarantined with whoever shares your space, be they family, significant other, or roommate, who you’re seeing a lot more of now than you did before. And at times, it feels like you’re trapped there with them.

How can you cope with this? Maybe watch a thriller about people trapped in a room. It’ll entertain you, and who knows? You might learn something. (At the very least, how not to kill your housemate.)

People trapped in a location has been a popular topic to explore for as long as people have been making films. But for some reason, a whole bunch of them came out in the early 2000s. Why? We don’t know. But our best guess is that after worrying about Y2K and/or 9/11, a lot of people were fantasizing about shutting themselves away and locking out the rest of the world, and that concept gave birth to a slew of screenplays with isolation as a plot element.

Anyway, here’s three of our favorites from that era:

“Panic Room” (2002)This was director David Fincher’s first film after “Fight Club,” and while it’s nowhere near as iconic, it’s still both interesting and gripping. Jodie Foster plays the divorced mother of tween Kristen Stewart as they move into a huge brownstone on New York City’s Upper West Side. The previous owner of the house installed a panic room to protect the inhabitants from intruders, which, naturally, comes in handy immediately after the mother and daughter move in, as three burglars show up to rob the place of bearer bonds locked in a safe … in the panic room.

The burglars – Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, and Jared Leto – are perfectly cast as criminals with varying levels of threatening-ness. (And let’s be honest, who doesn’t have regular nightmares about a Jared Leto home invasion?) As in “Silence of the Lambs,” Jodie Foster is great at playing someone freaking out but still staying crafty and competent enough to outwit the bad guys.

If you want to really examine the film afterwards, you can talk about its portrayal of race and gender and whether or not its approach to mortality is authentic. Or you could just enjoy a well-made thriller like a normal person.

[image:2]“Oldboy” (2003)Sure, “Parasite” is great, but “Oldboy” is the movie that made a bunch of us film nerds take notice of South Korean cinema (*cleans smudge off hipster glasses, adjusts thin plaid scarf.*)

Directed by Park Chan-wook, this film is less about the 15 years the protagonist, played by Choi Min-sik, spends imprisoned in a hotel room and more about his quest for revenge upon escaping from it – and the convoluted plot at play behind the scenes in every aspect of his life.

Incredibly bloody and brutal, the film won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival after receiving a ton of praise from Quentin Tarantino. And the film never really focuses on anybody’s feet, so that’s actually saying something. It’s definitely not a movie to watch with your family, though. And neither is the 2013 Spike Lee remake staring Josh Brolin.


“The Hole” (2001)This Nick Hamm-directed British cult film was never released theatrically in the U.S. despite starring Thora Birch, who was relatively big at the time, following “American Beauty” and “Ghost World.” A then-unknown Keira Knightley is also in it, as one of four teens who get trapped for 18 days while screwing around in an abandoned nuclear fallout shelter.

The movie starts off slow, but grows increasingly weird and unhinged as it retells the story “Rashomon”-style, and the actual motivations of the characters come to light. Without spoiling too much, the film is rather vague on how you’re supposed to feel about Birch’s character, and that point seems to have evenly divided critics. Your mileage may vary.

Nick Gonzales


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