Desperation can make people do crazy things – and there’s no greater demonstration of that than Sean Spencer’s Panic. With London as its backdrop, Panic is a study in urban isolation, desperation, and London’s ghost community through music journalist Andrew Deeley’s subjective lens. Influences from Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window are immediately obvious, reminiscent in Deeley observing a girl through his window and being drawn in when a violent confrontation leads to her disappearance. Deeley must then overcome debilitating panic attacks in order to find Kem and save her from her dire situation. What follows is an emotional and intense thriller that touches on key issues in the seedy underbelly of criminal England.
Filmed over 13 days, Spencer’s film maintains a raw intensity that revolves almost solely around Deeley’s psyche. While there are few principle characters in Panic, it is of little consequence to the audience because these individuals have more than enough variety and strength in personalities to guarantee them a place of prominence in comparison to their other, more mainstream, counterparts. Panic is a film driven by the powerful performances of its lead actors, especially David Gyasi and Pippa Nixon. Gyasi’s performance in Panic is near faultless, lending Deeley a subtle vulnerability and stubborn determination to see events through to the end. Having admired his work ever since he was in White Heat, his portrayal of Deeley merely re-establishes my conviction in his talent. It is almost over-generous then, that we also get Pippa Nixon’s Michelle/Amy as the intriguing and resolute character that Deeley needs like a rock for support through his ordeal.
What I liked the most about Panic was its exposition on the ghost community and the issue of human and sex trafficking. These problems are not widely discussed in the media and to have Panic examine them through Deeley’s frantic search made the film relevant and intriguing. I do feel, however, that the film only touched upon the problems that are faced by trafficked individuals every day, and although the film’s purpose was to expose the issue through Deeley’s reductive view (i.e. he only cared about saving Kem), I would have liked to have seen more development on the topic.
Incorporating elements from various neo-noir classics, Spencer has made a film that is engaging and powerful. While the plot could be criticised for being too straightforward (given its use of the knight-in-shining-armour trope), I did think that the film was wonderfully executed by Sean Spencer and cinematographer Carl Burke. The crisp visual imagery and effective narration shown in the film make it an arresting watch, and Christopher Nicholas Bang’s striking score is the perfect accompaniment to the character’s struggles (both within and out) to reach his goal. Compounded together, Panic is an engaging semi-detective thriller that explores the lengths one will go to relieve another of their desperate situation.
Written by Roxy Simons.
Edited by Manoshi Quayes.