Written by Ankit Ojha
What to Expect
Open Windows boasts of one of the strongest setups in a film I’ve seen all year.
Nacho Vigalondo – popularly known for his acclaimed 2007 Spanish-language film debut in TimeCrimes (Los Cronocrímenes) – directs this film, starring the very-talented-but-not-so-much-in-luck Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings franchise) and Sasha Grey.
Now there’s a lot of curiosity over Sasha Grey’s involvement – by a specific set of audience for a specific set of reasons, if you know what I mean! Let me, however, state to those of you not in the loop of things, that she’s not entirely all that new to the scene. Besides doing some horror-thrillers (Would you Rather) and slasher flicks (Smash Cut), she’s known widely for some of her more engaging roles of the likes of Steven Soderbergh’s (the Ocean’s trilogy) The Girlfriend Experience. So for people to write her off as just a former pornographic actress without knowing too much of her mainstream acting career would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
Plus, for a film that gives a slightly more dynamic approach to what’s really close to the found footage genre, one would – at the very least, out of curiosity – love to see what’s Vigalondo got in store for us.
What’s it About?
Sitting cozily in the hotel room he’s been invited to, Nick Chambers (Wood) gets a rude shock when he’s informed by what looks like the sound of his personal manager Chord (Neil Maskell; The Kill List) that the reason he’s in the hotel room – his dinner date with superstar Jill Goddard (Grey) – has been canceled on her whim. On the initial pretext of letting him have some fun and getting more info to help his fansite on Jill, Chord hacks into her personal devices and allows Nick an open window into the extremely private details of her life. Things obviously get ugly and twisted when it turns out that Chord has plans that can risk Jill’s life.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Now why would I want to watch yet another film that falls roughly into found-footage category? Because the technical mode of storytelling involves not just a bunch of cameras, but also a roughly fun dose of coolness with an added visual flavor that definitely accounts for some superior sequences that you’ve probably not witnessed in a film of the sort. What one needs to credit toward Vigalondo’s writing is that the movie sets itself up brilliantly – almost as-if to warn us to wear our seatbelts and get ready for a no-nonsense ride. The direction allows most of the writing to maintain a bloody good amount of thrill throughout its fairly crisp 100 minute runtime.
But here’s where – due to the progressively pandering screenwriting – cards start to slowly fall off, one by one. There’s an added subplot of a group of French hackers and a case of supposed mistaken identity that stops abruptly halfway. While one can definitely argue that not all stories have closure, there’s no way one can’t feel that this was a highly forced – if not unwanted – subplot. It is during the inclusion of this thread that the movie ends up distracting itself – and its viewers – heavily from the plot. Their disappearance marks for the film to get back on track with the thrills, but that respite is gained only for a while, as the viewer is presented one of the laziest, most ridiculously unreal finale of the lot (hint; if you’ve watched Mission:Impossible 2, you’ll know what I’m talkin’ about), which automatically rolls back what the makers so aggressively put on screen. This – unfortunately – is quite a shame, considering the movie, besides having dazzling potential, also does attempt to thrill, and has many moments that grip you.
The movie is visually appealing to watch; a surprising aspect considering it could have fallen prey to the ease of its own technique. A slot of the scenes are set up with some very bright, eye-popping motion graphics at hand, which are simple and minimalist, but not monotonous at all. Told mostly from the screen of Nick’s laptop, one’s given different “open windows” (pun intended), which house at the least three to four storylines running parallel to each other. The edit is quick and fast-paces, but there seems to be a lot of help from the motion-graphics artists in its attempt to seem visually seamless – which is not by any means a bad thing. The production design of the film is purely realist, but feels very futuristic in its very attempt to go on a tech-savvy overdrive. Music by Jorge Magaz is functional and sparingly used.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Elijah Wood is a talent, and he shows it here too. He’s a fun watch, and delivers humor that doesn’t go overboard at all. The only unfortunate thing is that we’re made to feel like he’s playing a twisted extension of his lead in television’s Wilfred. Sasha Grey is decent, and while she does have a clunky first few minutes, she grows out of it and delivers a good performance. Of course, it doesn’t help that her character has to perform gimmicks to drive audiences in, but that probably isn’t her fault. Neil Maskell is a thrill in his role, and digs into his character with devilish glee. The others are strictly functional, to say the least.
For a movie with an ambitious concept (for which I’m being generous enough to give it another half star) that was worth so much more than what was done to it, Open Windows ends up being a fairly unmemorable thriller film with a finale that ruins whatsoever could have been salvaged. Boasting of a fantastic visual style and with well-extracted performances from Wood and Maskell, Vigalondo does however end up making this a consistently watchable film throughout its runtime.
Worth it only if you’re looking for something different to watch – at the cost of its flaws and a disappointing payoff.
Star Rating: 3 / 5