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Cinedigm // Unrated // November 7, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
With society's rapid growth in technology, it has inevitably become an essential product of our daily lives. Whether we're at home or on the go, it's extremely convenient to stay connected. This is clearly the idea that writer/director Nacho Vigalondo's Open Windows utilizes in order to provide a thrilling moviegoing experience. The audience is placed within a fast-paced environment that contains an antagonist that remains hidden behind the use of this very same technology in order to enact his deepest desires. This is most certainly a statement on an exaggerated level of how we exploit the technology that we have at our fingertips. Is Open Windows the action thriller that we've all been waiting for, or could it have used more time in the editing room?
Fan boy Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) is an obsessive blogger who has won an Internet contest to have a dinner date with actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). Ultimately, a man named Chord (Neil Maskell) poses as Jill's campaign manager, and aids Nick in following the footsteps of the famous actress. The unsuspecting fan soon discovers that he's simply a puppet in a much larger scheme, but it's too late to turn back now.
When it comes to the plot itself, Open Windows isn't necessarily exploring any new ground. In fact, it borrows from several other titles that have come out over the past few years. Even so, the plot still proves to be rather entertaining, as we continue to see Nick's situation escalate throughout the night. From the very first few moments of the feature, we're introduced to a gullible and reasonably sympathetic young man who is eager to meet the movie star of his dreams. His disappointment soon turns into anxiety and fear of being caught, given his actions. He finds himself in a web that he cannot escape from, as he continues to follow Chord's instructions. Things become more complicated, as Jill's safety is also at risk. Not only is this a fight for his own survival, but also for the safety of the woman that he has held on a pedestal for such a long period of time. The audience never gets the opportunity to care much for Jill, although we undeniably care for Nick, even given several of his ridiculous decisions made throughout the running time.
The more characters that are introduced, the more busy the film becomes. There's only one screen that we're watching, making it all way too busy. Between Nick's webcam, Chord's communications, Jill's devices, and that of some outside hackers, the plot becomes far too congested. What started as a relatively simple film with plenty of fun to be had turned into a screen filled with a confusing amount of material. We get to a point within the picture's running time where our reason for actually caring is absolutely abandoned. Nick becomes less and less of the sympathetic character over time. Everything before this point primarily worked due to the fact that the protagonist was interesting enough for us to want to follow. Once this statement no longer becomes true, we're left with a rather chaotic thriller that fails to pick one direction and run with it. Open Windows wants to be a lot more than a straightforward plot in a single motion picture.
Nonetheless, Vigalondo has crafted an exciting climax that will truly leave viewers wanting more. It moves into a realm that we didn't expect from this film, as it wears its action elements with pride. However, once the major plot twist is revealed, Nacho Vigalondo and consultant writer Daniel Mas' screenplay goes off of the rails. Instead of keeping us on the edge of our seat and blowing our minds, it feels the need to over explain everything that's happening, rather than trusting the audience to decipher what they're seeing themselves. This shows a lack of trust had within viewers, and makes for a bad taste in the mouths of the audience members. It will leave you either wishing for a more subtle ending or simply wanting more of what we experienced through the picture's climax. Unfortunately, there's no changing it now, and what we're left with is a film that doesn't truly understand what it wants to be at heart.
Elijah Wood has been choosing some rather interesting titles since The Lord of the Rings trilogy has come to a close. Starring in pictures such as Sin City, Maniac, and Grand Piano, he clearly has a passion for this genre of filmmaking, and I have been enjoying his career move, for the most part. Wood is decent enough as Nick Chambers. Even though it always feels as if we're simply watching a fan boy version of Elijah Wood, he's still a joy to watch on screen. Sasha Grey has only semi-recently made her transition into acting, as she originally made her debut through the porn industry. Regardless of where she got started, Grey is believable as Jill Goddard. She doesn't have much dialogue, but she simply has a look that makes this character convincing. Neil Maskell is suitable in the role of Chord, even though he's primarily a voice on a video chat.
The title Open Windows makes sense within Vigalondo's visual style as seen from the first act onwards. This isn't a traditionally filmed thriller, as it is entirely displayed through the "open windows" on Nick's laptop. From there, we're able to view from the perspective of other cell phones and security cameras. This is a unique way of experiencing a thriller that has social context set around modern technology, and how it can be used in horrible ways. While this proves to be effective for the majority of the picture, the screen simply becomes too busy. There's so much happening on Nick's laptop that it constantly feels as if there's something that we missed. By the time that we reach the third act, this method of filmmaking takes away from the tension that could have been had through a more traditional filming technique. Even though this method didn't entirely work for me, I greatly respect director Nacho Vigalondo for experimenting and trying something different.
Open Windows is an example of a film that strives to achieve something unique in the realm of pictures about modern technology, and how it can be turned on us. Filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo displays the negative effects that can occur when this power gets in the wrong hands. What starts as an engaging thriller with a sympathetic protagonist turns into a chaotic mess that Vigalondo simply isn't able to put back together. Audiences will be surprised by the rather enthralling climax, but the ending ultimately falls back into the very same stereotypes that the filmmaker was trying to avoid. Open Windows has an overworked narrative, but a few tabs make for an interesting visit. Rent it.
Open Windows will be released on Video-On-Demand and Digital Download on October 2, 2014 and in theaters on November 7, 2014.