open_windows_1Year: 2014
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer(s): Nacho Vigalondo, Daniel Mas
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: Unrated
Digital, Color, 100 mins

Synopsis: An internet fanboy gets stuck into a dangerous web of deceit after he’s offered the chance to spy on his celebrity crush.

With his third feature, it’s clear that director Nacho Vigalondo isn’t interested in repeating himself. Open Windows is yet another genre-bending exercise for the director, taking place in real-time, entirely through a laptop desktop and various forms of live mobile video feeds. It may also be the first film ever that requires viewing from a computer screen to get the full effect. What it results to is a literal, thrill-a-minute ride that makes the viewer an unwitting participant into it’s sleazy exploits to dissect the fine line between voyeurism and entertainment. It’s timely, but not pretentious, and if you can just go with it, you’ll have plenty of fun. It’s the Rear Window of our generation and at times feels almost what it would’ve been like if Hitchcock was around to explore social media and the way it defines us.

The film centers on Nick Chambers, the webmaster of a fansite detected to rising actress Jill Goddard. Nick flies out to Austin after winning a contest to have dinner with his celebrity crush only to find out that its been abruptly cancelled. While working on his laptop in his hotel room, he’s suddenly contacted by a voice on his computer calling himself Chord. The intruder tells Nick that Jill’s cancelled his prize dinner in order to have a sordid affair with her agent. To get back at her, Chord offers Nick unprecedented access to all of Jill via her cellphone, computer and a myriad of hidden cameras. Sickened by what’s happening, Nick is understandably hesitant – but as the voice on the other end becomes increasingly hostile and eventually threatens Jill’s life, Nick is forced through a serious of events which push the limits of good taste in order to save Jill’s life from the mysterious hacker.

What the film has going for it is a strong concept, both in theme and execution, and has plenty of fun stretching both to their limits in breakneck speed. As the film takes place on Nick’s laptop, we’re offered a chance to view multiple events happening at once in a mix of perfect timing and cascading chaos. It’s impressive to see the way Vigalondo navigates around Nick’s laptop in a way that shows us how massive and labyrinthian the internet and technology are. Sure, there are a few loopholes with such a high concept, but everything the film has to say comes across in the most entertaining way, and with enough inventive sparks to make what could’ve been a generic thriller into something that comments on the way we consume entertainment and obsess about/exploit celebrity in the modern age – something especially relevant in light of the numerous waves of celebrity leaks. What will ultimately divide audiences is when the film hits it’s third act. It’s then that all bets are off, and the film just runs with absurdity (in a good way), pilling up twist upon meta-twist to show us that nothing was ever really as it seemed. On a narrative front, it’s here where Vigalondo pulls the rug under us and proves himself a master magician, although you will be required to suspend your disbelief to get the full effect.

open_windows_2Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that this is Elijah Wood’s second film in a row, following the incredible Grand Piano, in which he’s an unwitting pawn to a sinister voice. But that’s where the similarities stop, with Wood delivering a different kind of performance, one that relies on him to speak straight into the camera and carry the film’s quirky plot. Of course, this is no problem for the actor, who proves capable of ratcheting up believability and reliability with every passing scene.

Perhaps the weakest link here is Sara Grey’s Jill. As a character, she’s not particularly likable, probably on purpose, and she doesn’t have the chops to make her role really believable. There is however, a meta-angle to her casting, showing a person on an existential crossroads and at odds with their public perception. In that respect, she’s a sensible choice.

Open Windows isn’t breaking ground in terms of narrative, but it’s a fresh presenation akin to a really breezy magic trick, taking aim at our thirst for pervasive pop culture fetish. Director Nacho Vigalondo is having fun with the quirky material and his audience, and in the end, it amounts to a self-aware dose of smart escapism. This is the kind of film that requires a lot of trust from the viewer, but if you can let yourself go, it’ll subvert most expectations and you won’t regret it.

Crome Rating: 3.5/5

SG