"What Spencer seems to aim for is a thriller set in a man’s mind and keep the viewer on the edge of their seat"

Sean Spencer’s first feature film, Panic is ambitious work with a few striking elements. Starring an almost entirely non-white cast, the film showcases less known talents, including David Gyasi, who also appeared in Interstellar and The Dark Knight. The story opens with a scene of protagonist Andrew Deeley (David Gyasi) spying on a girl (Yennis Cheung) in the facing apartment block. However Deeley’s obsession with this unknown girl doesn’t stop him from having other women over at his flat. His first encounter with one of them (Pippa Nixon) is shown, and initially the woman doesn’t seem to play a big role in the protagonist’s life. Until she grabs the binocular he uses to spy on his neighbour and witnesses the girl’s abduction.

Deeley’s concern and frustration are amplified by the woman’s refusal to talk to the police and without having directly witnessed the kidnapping he struggles to come to terms with his helplessness. Here, Spencer’s attempt to build up a climate of anxiety and frustration is disrupted by the film’s slow-pace. The protagonist’s story steadily unfolds as he’s absorbed into a vortex of growing violence and mystery. This obsession for his beautiful neighbour drives him away from the safe comfort of his flat, thing he didn’t seem to be able to do initially due to intense agoraphobia. With new found determination and desperation-driven courage, Deeley embarks on a journey to find out what happened to his neighbour and bring her back home.

Panic’s plot is straight forward, but despite the short run-time, the film seems to be taking a long time to say very little. The limited speech in the film makes space for beautiful silent shots and delicately choreographed non-verbal communication. However, the few dialogue featured sound overly ordinary in the unique settings of Deeley’s life. As a viewer, taking interest in the girl’s disappearance and back story requires an effort. Far more interesting is the problematic relationship between the protagonist and the mysterious woman who witnesses the abduction. Her name and true identity are revealed as Deeley tries to track down her neighbour and her role is soon revealed to be something more than a simple romantic interest.

Almost no time is dedicated to the rest of the characters, which contributes to set Panic apart from a normal thriller. The whole story revolves around Deeley and his impulsiveness in helping out vulnerable women. What Spencer seems to aim for is a thriller set in a man’s mind and keep the viewer on the edge of their seat purely by displaying his extreme discomfort. The attempt is remarkable, but still falls short and somehow sets a distance between the audience and the main character.

Although without fully succeeding as a thriller, Panic makes a notable drama. With beautiful shots and a suitable soundtrack, it’s an easy watch and definitely worth the time invested.