Secret Window
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr David Koepp
with Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S Dutton, Len Cariou, Joan Heney, John Dunn-Hill, Vlasta Vrana, Matt Holland, Gillian Ferrabee, Bronwen Mantel
release US 12.Mar.04, UK 30.Apr.04
04/US 1h36

He's getting hot and bothered: Depp and Hutton.

depp turturro bello
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Stephen King novels are notoriously difficult to adapt into movies, mostly because they're all written with a fiercely internalised perspective that simply cannot translate convincingly to the screen. And that's the main problem with this otherwise very well-made film. Mort Rainey (Depp) is a writer trying to piece his life back together after his wife (Bello) runs off with another man (Hutton). Alone in his lakeside cabin, he's accosted by a stranger named John Shooter (Turturro) who claims that Mort stole one of his stories. And as he gets increasingly insistent and violent, Mort starts worrying for his safety, seeking help from the local cop (Cariou) and his agent in New York (Dutton). But Shooter doesn't like this at all.

Koepp clearly learned several directorial tricks from David Fincher (who directed Koepp's screenplay for Panic Room); this film is full of swooping camera movements that swirl around Mort's cabin, passing through windows and mirrors (with the help of digital trickery) to convey Mort's increasing inner turmoil. The film looks terrific, and it helps to have an actor like Depp at the centre, with his off-handed approach to the role, full of comical quirks that make Mort a real person we can identify with. And the surrounding cast are all very good in extremely ill-defined roles. Frankly, it's Depp's increasingly unkempt hair that alerts us to the fact that something is deeply awry here! That's about how deep this film is. Koepp simply never gets anywhere near the story's underlying themes--the pain of separation and the confusion of artistic inspiration. He seems happy to simply pile on red herrings and potential villains, cranking the suspense without ever giving us a real reason to be frightened. So as the story progresses, the film feels thinner and thinner, to the point where it vanishes altogether at the end. While it's playing, the film is entertaining enough. But half an hour after the lights go up, you'll be hard pressed to remember anything about it at all.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 16.Mar.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall