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Release Date: November 7, 2014 (Limited)
Available on VOD Platforms October 3, 2014
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
MPAA Rating: R

If one thing can be said about director Nacho Vigalondo, it’s that he’s always coming up with new and creative ways to tell stories. Timecrimes was one of the best time travel movies I’ve ever seen and might be one of my favorite thrillers of all time. Extraterrestrial brought a different take on the alien invasion movie, and now Open Windows, his first English-language film, takes a harsh look at technology and obsession. The film is told entirely through a computer screen, which doesn’t seem like something that could hold one’s attention for an hour and a half, but somehow Vigalondo throws in enough suspense and twists to keep everyone glued to the screen.

The film stars Elijah Wood as Nick, a super-fan of Hollywood starlet Jill Goddard, played by Sasha Grey. Nick arrives at his hotel in Austin after he believes he won a contest where he gets to have dinner with the actress, however he quickly finds out that was a farce and that he’s now part of a much more nefarious game.

A mysterious man calls Nick on his computer and begins showing him various camera feeds throughout the hotel and through Jill’s cell phone. The entire film then plays out from the screen as Nick desperately follows the man’s instructions in order to prevent Jill from being murdered.

The story evolves through various chat windows, video feeds and Skype calls, which at first seems like it would be too constrained to evoke any real tension, however the frantic pace at which everything begins to unfold makes the mechanic work incredibly well. Multiple windows are open at the same time, and through the plethora of camera feeds, we can still see all the action taking place.

The big problem with Open Windows, aside from some questionable performances from Sasha Grey and a few smaller roles, is the reliance on technology that simply doesn’t exist. For a techie like myself, the sophistication in the equipment used in this film borders on science fiction and was really hard for me to buy into unfortunately. The interfaces not looking realistic, the cameras that can combine images to render three-dimensional models on the fly, wi-fi that is seemingly available all the time, and disguises that rival those on Scooby-Doo pulled me out of the whole experience. In the film’s defense, there are several moments where the crazy bits of tech are addressed, but there’s still a ton of stuff you just need to accept as movie magic.

If you can get passed the ridiculous use of technology, Open Windows is a refreshing and fun ride. The storytelling device is clever and unique, and while this isn’t the first film to use this technique, to my knowledge it is the first feature-length attempt. The twists are unexpected and the elements of suspense are well executed, but I just found some aspects a bit too hard to swallow. I do, however, applaud Vigalondo for consistently bringing new ideas and concepts to genre film, and I can’t wait to see what he’s got up sleeve next.


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