As one of three movies that director Nacho Vigalondo had at Frightfest this year, Open Windows was his first English language feature film debut, obviously looking for international success by recruiting an ex – pornstar (Sasha Grey) and an ex hobbit (Ellijah Wood) in an ambitious concept flick that will never make you look at your computer screen in the same way again.
Ellijah Wood plays Nick Chambers a computer nerd whose single obsession is finding exclusive pictures of young actress Jill Goddard (Grey) and being the first to post them on his website JillGodard.com, with the pictures themselves being on the thin line between creepy and pathetic. After winning an online contest during the promotion of her action film “Dark Skies” to have a one on one exclusive interview with the actress he receives an email asking him to send a video of himself as part of the guidelines for winning the contest. However shortly after Vigalondo kicks the film in gear as there is no contest or interview and it was all a ruse for mysterious British hacker played by Neil Maskell (Kill List) to play a demented game, giving Nick the chance to get closer to Jill than he could have ever imagined. With access to cameras, Jill’s phone and information to control and blackmail Nick, Open Windows plays out as a cat and mouse thriller between victim and puppet – master, with our insistence and reliance on technology being the major evil at play.
Perhaps the most ambitious element of this concept Is Vigalondo’s choice to stage the movie within an actual computer screen, which is used it first in an impressive way to have several plot-lines happening simultaneously but at the plot progresses and Nick is instructed by the hacker to carry his laptop round with him and at one point giving him bags of web cameras to stick around, the idea of the movie taking place purely though ‘windows’ of technology effects the progression of the plot and soon becomes a frustrating gimmick. This is especially pertinent when more elements become introduced such as video calls from a Paris based hacker collective and talk of a legendary hacker Nevada, as the sheer amount of screens and over literal visual exposition becomes a little overwhelming.
Nevertheless Ellijah Wood is brilliant at playing repressed hermits as of late (Maniac) while Neil Maskell resembles a sinister cockney A.I even if it is only voice that is mainly present in the flick. Despite flaws existing in its sheer visual over-saturation and myriad revelations falling like dominoes there is still a lot to take away here with enough fun, technical smarts and complex layers to truly challenge you as an audience member. While the execution is somewhat of a misfire the effort and scale of the production is worthy, as an attempt to replicate the way that people consume information and interact with technology in the modern age and similarly how that can be turned against us. In the wake of the recent hacker theft of private nude photos of over a hundred celebrities calling into question issues of data protection, privacy rights and internet security, Open Windows has never been more timely and relevant, even if its message is partly lost in the muffled voices of the information highway.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Elijah Wood, Neil Maskell, Sasha Grey, Ivan Gonzalez, Nacho Vigalondo
Runtime: 100 mins