In light of the recent leaks of private celebrity nude pictures, the release of Open Windows seems quite timely. It’s almost as if the film took inspiration from that story and spun it into a thriller about dangerous hackers targeting hot young actresses, but films aren’t made that quickly, production actually began back in 2012.
Nick (Elijah Wood) runs a fan site dedicated to popular actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey), whom we’re introduced to with an amusing fake trailer for her upcoming sci-fi epic which starts the film. He’s won a chance to have dinner with her in an online competition and is nervously preparing to do so in his Austin hotel room when he receives a phone call from a British man calling himself Chord (Kill List star Neil Maskell). He’s informed that she’s cancelled the date but he can provide Nick access to Jill’s phone, computer and more so he can spy on her.
The big gimmick to Open Windows is that the whole film is viewed, as the title suggest, through the windows on Nick’s computer. It’s never just like looking at a computer screen through, the camera sweeps up and down between the different feeds, zooming in so one fills the screen when required, and opting for split screen at other times. The whole film is constructed as a montage of real-time footage, and these transitions are handled smoothly by director Nacho Vigalondo (who previous made the inventive low-bidget sci-fi Timecrimes). Vigalondo shows a definite Brian De Palma influence, with Open Windows thematically resembling a classic De Palma thriller for the hi-tech internet age. Visually it bares more similarity to De Palma’s little seen 2007 war movie Redacted (also a montage of video footage), but Vigalondo attempts to make the transitions flow more smoothly with his aforementioned camera techniques. Open Windows also can’t help but be a little reminiscent of Grand Piano, co-incidentally another Spanish-made De Palma homage starring Elijah Wood being manipulated by an outside voice that opened earlier this year.
Nick is initially cautiously compliant with Chord’s suggestions that he access Jill’s phone but soon it becomes clear that he’s being manipulated by a much more powerful man with a goal far more sinister than just spying on Jill.
Open Windows has some commentary to make on the current state of celebrity privacy and the power hackers can wield, though taking them to a knowingly over-the-top level. I’m generally dubious to anything involving Sasha Grey’s presence, she strikes me as being the more hardcore version of Paris Hilton, attempting to utilise her past porn notoriety as a springboard into any celebrity medium she can. She only now appears to be getting a number of film roles following her debut stunt casting in Steven Soderbergh’s dire The Girlfriend Experience, and like that film this also plays off her real-life reputation. Seeing someone famed for their willingness to disrobe (and much more) for the cameras being forced to do it against her will admittedly does add another layer to the film, and it’s an effectively disturbing sequence. Although prominently billed, she’s not in the film much. Wood and Maskell’s menacing exchanges are what it’s primarily about. I’m quite enjoying the direction Wood’s career is taking, pursuing roles he can do so well in like this, Maniac and Grand Piano (he’s also a producer here) rather than become a Hollywood supporting player.
Vigalondo successfully keeps Open Windows entertainingly gripping for a good amount of time, but it later becomes increasingly complicated, and not for the better. He throws in a group of French hackers working with Wood who could probably be excised to concentrate more in the central pair, and it eventually heads towards a ludicrous big twist that I’m still trying to make sense of. Still, it’s a thought-provoking and fun thriller most of the time and manages to make its big gimmick work, even if it could have benefited from keeping things simpler.