June 23, 2004

Secret Window (2004)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

96 mins. · PG-13
16x9 · 2.35:1

Format
DVD

Audio
English
French

Subtitles
English, French

Extras
Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Storyboards, Trailers

Starring
Johnny Depp, Maria Bello, John Turturro

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(2004)

After countless gigs as the writer of blockbuster movies, David Koepp is becoming more prolific by occasionally directing his own work as well. "Secret Windows" is the latest of these films, written and directed by the writer who penned films such as "Jurassic Park," "Mission: Impossible," "Panic Room" and "Spider-Man" among many others. Accordingly, expectations are high for this film, and he doesn’t disappoint.

Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is a successful novelist but after the separation from his cheating wife (Maria Bello) he let himself go a bit, living in seclusion in a cottage in the woods. One day a strange man by the name of John Shooter (John Turturro) approaches him and accuses Mort of plagiarism. "You stole my story!" he claims tossing down a manuscript of his own work in front of the startled novelist. Steadfastly Mort refutes the accusation but Shooter is most insistent, and begins to threaten the successful writer. After he kills Mort’s dog to make a point, Mort hires a private detective for protection and to uncover more information about Shooter, but the more he tries to unveil him as an impostor, the more vehemently Shooter lashes out. Soon it becomes evident that Shooter is not just going to go away.

Once again we have a perfect vehicle for Johnny Depp here. The writer whose life is in slight disarray and the man who lets himself go occasionally is perfect for Depp to once again show his versatility. But it is John Turturro once again who steals the show. The unsettling intensity with which he brings Shooter to life is utterly intimidating and menacing, making it very tangible for the viewer that this issue will take a violent turn before the film is over.

David Koepp directs "Secret Windows" with a sure hand and a lot of confidence, and uses some great visuals to enhance the atmosphere while also keeping the actual onscreen violence at a minimum, thus creating the moments of menace mostly in the viewer’s heads – where it belongs for best effect. As a result, moments become larger and more suspenseful than they may actually be, actions become more important as they truly are because the viewer is constantly on alert trying to look around corners before the characters actually can. The result is a wonderfully engaging thriller despite the fact that it uses the all-too-common I’m-going-to-make-your-life-a-living-Hell stalker theme as the backstory.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment presents "Secret Window" in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this DVD in a transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets, of course. The print is absolutely clean and free of any defects. It boasts a very high level of definition bringing out every little detail in the production down to the last nook and cranny. The dark outdoor scenes at night are equally rich in detail and boast solid blacks the never break up revealing just enough image detail in the shadows. Overall black levels are solid and firmly root the image and the highlights are well balanced. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression of the film is without flaws on this release.

The DVD features an active Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio track that is making very aggressive use of the surround channels at times in order to increase the suspense and to heighten certain action moments. The music is mixed in a wide sound field and as the stinger cues do their work, it feels as if the orchestra is hitting the viewer from all directions at once. It is a great audio track that adds very much to the experience of the movie.

A commentary track featuring writer/director David Koepp is also included on the DVD. It is a great track in which Koepp goes into quite a bit of detail about varying aspects of the production. Talking abut the characters, the locations, the production in general, dissecting certain shots and explaining his overall approach this is a good track for fans of the film to gather additional insight into its effectiveness.

Four deleted scenes are also included but again, there’s a good reason they were excised from the final film as they hardly added anything to the plot or the characters.

The three short featurettes that are found on the DVD take a look at dedicated aspects, such as adapting Stephen King’s story upon which the film is based to the big screen, and a closer look at the actual production of the movie.

The DVD is rounded out by animated story boards and a selection of trailers.

Despite its all-too familiar premise, "Secret Windows" turned out to be a great genre entry. It manages to bring the intensity of the moments to life like few films do and turns the entire running length into one long suspenseful string of incidents that ultimately climaxes in a somewhat unexpected way just as you thought things couldn’t get any worse. For fans of the genre, "Secret Window" is definitely required viewing material.

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