Open Windows

Gimmicks and plot twists dominate Open Windows, a thriller by director Nacho Vigalondo. It is not boring, and you have to pay pretty close attention to it in order to fully understand what’s going on at any moment, but it eventually grows tiresome. It’s overplotted, I think. But you do want to see it out to the end, simply because you have no idea how it’s going to conclude after its main plot gets rolling.

That plot involves a celebrity blogger, Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood), winning a contest to meet the celebrity he worships, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey) for dinner. He sets up in a hotel and watches a press conference from his computer, only to be sent a message by a man named Chord (Neil Maskell), who tells him that the dinner was cancelled — by Jill. Vowing revenge, Chord hacks into Jill’s cell phone, allowing Nick to gain access. Then, they spy on her from the hotel room; Jill is conveniently staying in the same hotel. And then … well, Chord is a little more dangerous than he initially lets on.

Eventually, Open Windows degenerates into a race against time. Nick is forced to do whatever Chord wants, lest Jill take a knife to the throat. Meanwhile, Nick gets in touch with some other hackers — who think he’s someone else, “Nevada” — in hopes that they’ll help him thwart Chord’s plan. One important thing I haven’t mentioned yet: the vast majority of this film takes place on a computer. The “open windows” of the title refer to windows on the desktop. We’re often getting multiple images at once, all coming from different cameras.

It’s certainly a different way to put together a movie. Even in a car chase scene, we watch it all as if we’re looking at a laptop. One camera is focused on our driver, Nick, while another is watching the road. A third window is watching that group of hackers, while a fourth is creating a 3D model of the bag in which Jill is being kept. Sometimes the film will focus on one of these windows itself, zooming in so we pay attention to it — I don’t know who’s doing the zooming in some cases — while others you’ll see three or four windows all at once and have to decide for yourself what you’re going to focus on.

The plot is nowhere near as simple as I’ve described it. There are twists, turns, reveals, and a couple of “what just happened?” moments. It’s a little too much, but too much is always better than too little. At least with this, you want to see how everything will play out in the end, as opposed to not caring at all. If nothing else, Open Windows creates a significant amount of intrigue.

It’s also relatively thrilling. It ramps up the tension and suspense, and then keeps the pacing really quick, especially once the initial setting up is done. It doesn’t give you much time to breathe, and gives you a clueless man in Nick to whom you can relate. Nick is in over his head, has very little idea what’s going on or what to do, and that’s basically where you are. And the intimate feel that “watching” it all on a computer screen does almost make you feel a part of it, somehow.

Elijah Wood hasn’t been in many big movies lately, instead deciding to focus on smaller projects and TV. That’s fine, but it means that not as many people will see him. I’m reminded here how good he is at seeming panicked and flummoxed. Neil Maskell has the perfect type of voice for the role he’s been given here. Sasha Grey is perfectly fine as the victim. Director Nacho Vigalondo shows up in a role, too, and is pretty good at it — he does have more acting credits to his name than directing ones.

Open Windows is convoluted and overplotted, but at least it’s consistently entertaining and you’ll want to stick with it to the end, even if it’ll throw in two or three twists too many by that point. It has a unique style, one which always gives you something different to watch and also makes you feel more like you’re a part of the film. It’s exciting and tense, even if its internal logic will probably leave you scratching your head. Still, it’s filled with content and won’t likely bore you, so it might be worth a watch.

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