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Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, 2014's Open Windows takes the modern age's infatuation with celebrity and our current tendency to essentially want to live online and uses that to pull us into an interesting and suspenseful story. We won't go into too much detail here as there are some interesting twists and turns and to ruin them would be a bad thing for those who haven't seen the movie, but the premise is simple enough. Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) is a regular guy who, through some unusual circumstances, is given the chance to look in on the personal life of his favorite movie star, an actress named Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). He had previously won a contest in which he was supposed to have dinner with her and she brushed him off. As such, he accepts but soon finds that this ‘privilege' comes with a pretty serious catch and before you know it, he's involved in a race against time with her life hanging in the balance. We see all of this play out by way of a mix of ‘computer screens' and ‘real life' footage.
Open Windows is well done, but there are times where its visual style seems like a little much. There are lot of instances where there are so many windows open on screen and so many computer graphics overlaid that it comes perilously close to taking away from what is actually a really cool story. Once you get used to it, that subsides but it stands to reason that some viewers may find this more of an issue than others. That having been said, there are also some really nice compositions and layouts here. A good example is when Nick is dealing with the three French men who only appear as green visors in the dark. This gives these characters a strange, ominous vibe that suits them well and fits in nicely with the way in which this story unfolds.
The movie also makes great use of music and sound. You'll notice this in the opening scene but also in other scenes throughout the movie, the bit where Nick drives the car and the music cranks up only for it to stop suddenly when the CD is stopped. At this point you realize it's part of the ‘movie' and not part of the ‘soundtrack.'
As far as the performances go, more often than not they're very good. Elijah Wood has, in his post Lord Of The Rings career, taken some interesting and often unexpected roles. He proved in the remake of Maniac that he isn't afraid of taking chances and his involvement in an unorthodox film such as this cements that. He's good here. He plays his role well and his concern for Jill once he realizes what's going on feels sincere enough that we can believe him in the role. He's not asked to be an action hero type here, he's asked to be a concerned young man in over his head and he pulls it off without any trouble at all. Of course, just as many people are going to be interested in Sasha Grey's presence as well. As most readers will probably know, she's a former adult movie starlet who has retired from the industry. Steven Soderbergh cast her in The Girlfriend Experience in 2009, which was probably her first real stab at mainstream acceptance but she's since gone on to become a regular in Entourage for HBO. Those who come into a movie like this with a preconceived notion as to her abilities as an actress would do well to leave those notions at the door, because she is quite a good actress and her work here is strong. The key scene where this comes into play is where Nick's being forced to ‘control' her as she has to take off her clothes and spread her legs for the camera. She's an actress we can assume is comfortable with nudity but this scene and her performance in it is so desexualized that there's nothing erotic about it, particularly once we see the grisly after effects of what happens to her. Confident without overdoing it and then simultaneously vulnerable without being a wimp, Grey turns in good work here. Neil Maskell and Nacho Vigalondo turn in good supporting roles here as do a few of the other supporting actors and actresses but for the most part, it's Wood and Grey who leave the strongest impression.
The movie isn't perfect though. In addition to overdoing it with the graphics and the split screens and the laptop windows, the movie stretches credibility in spots. It's in these parts of the movie that the story almost becomes more of a sci-fi piece than a traditional thriller. If you're able to suspend your disbelief, however, and just go along with Vigalondo and company and enjoy the ride, Open Windows does not fail to entertain.The Blu-ray:
Open Windows is presented on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Shot on high end digital video the image is pretty much pristine and obviously there are no issues with heavy grain or print damage, dirt or debris. Color reproduction is very strong here, bold colors look really good, in particular but much of the movie leans towards darkness. Black levels are also strong, nice and deep and free of any heavy crush. Detail is typically very strong here, at least as strong as it should be. After all, we're supposed to be seeing all of this unfold on a laptop, so things should look a bit overly digitized in spots, right? And they do, but not to the point where it's a problem. All in all the movie looks quite good.Sound:
The only audio option provided on the disc is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with optional English closed captioning provided. As you'd expect for a recent thriller like this, the mix is a pretty engaging one. The more intense scenes, like the opening ‘psychic attack'/movie preview scene for example, really benefit from the depth of the lossless mix and the added depth and clarity it provides. The movie is full of some great directional effects. Additionally dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable throughout the duration of the movie. There are no problems at all with even a trace of hiss or distortion while depth and clarity are quite good as well. The score also features good range and depth.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is The Making Of Open Windows, a featurettes that runs just under sixteen minutes. Here we get some behind the scenes footage as well as interviews with Vigalondo, Maskell, Grey, Wood and others. They talk about their experiences working on the film, what makes it different, how they hope it will be quite suspenseful and how they use the themes of technology and the cult of celebrity throughout the story being told. The disc also includes a Visual Effects Reel that runs a little under two minutes, a trailer for the feature, animated menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Open Windows isn't a masterpiece, but it does succeed in entertaining us and in keeping us interested in how its plot will eventually resolve itself. Wood and Grey are both quite good here and while the movie does occasionally delve too far into style over substance for its own good, this is worth a watch if you enjoy a good thriller. The Blu-ray looks and sounds very good and contains a decent featurettes as its main extra. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.