Wednesday, October 22, 2014

OPEN WINDOWS (Review) - TADFF 2014


review by AARON ALLEN

Directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo

Starring Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Adam Quintero

Following the recent celebrity photo leak dupped The Fappening, Nacho Vigalondo's Open Windows -- a thriller about the perils of ever-present online technology -- definitely has a cultural cache built into it that it may not have intended. Nevertheless, Open Windows is a bonkers and sometimes camp action-thriller that verges on science-fiction with a novel premise that's a fun, exciting, and engrossing take on what happens to privacy in a world dangerously obsessed with technology and celebrity.

Elijah Wood plays Nick, an obsessive fan of cult actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). Nick runs one of the web's largest Jill Goddard fansites: Nick ends up in Austin, Texas thinking he's won a contest to meet and have dinner with Jill at Fantastic Fest, but while he's screencapping a live-stream of Jill at a press conference for her new movie, Nick is contacted online by an unseen but English-accented press agent named Chord (Neil Maskell) with some bad news: Jill has cancelled the meeting. In order to help Nick get back at her for slighting her biggest fan, Chord installs some very suspicious but powerful technology on Nick's computer that grants Nick instant and complete control over Jill's cell phone and computer and all the data on it. Soon, Nick finds himself being tempted and manipulated by Chord into committing a series of escalating voyeuristic and sexual cybercrimes against the object of his devotion. The gimmick of the entire film is that everything we see is from a computer screen. There is no external omniscient camera only laptops, iPads, mobile phones, and portable video cameras. Told from the POV of these webcams and cellphone cameras thanks to some ingenious editing, Open Windows immerses the audience in a visually multitasking cyber thriller of online cat and mouse.

The eyes of the world-wide-web are on Sasha Grey as Jill Goddard
Open Windows is by no means a serious treatise on the perils of our modern social media surveillance culture, but it is fun as hell and shamelessly in-your-face with its improbable twists and turns. Inspired more by ludicrous pulp crime stories and comic books than grounded scientific reality, Open Windows demands a rigorous suspension of disbelief. Open Windows is not so much a film about what can happen today if a hacker masterminded a campaign of online manipulation but, instead, what could happen as technology gets smaller, more powerful, and more intrusive. As such, there are some real crazy twists that might be too insane for some audiences to roll with. If you can make this leap, you will find Open Windows a very entertaining film first and foremost. Then, if that bridge is crossed, you can sit back and appreciate its subtle commentary on online celebrity, the loss of digital privacy, the objectification of women in media, cyber-bullying, and themes of online stalking, voyeurism, and identity theft that dominate our modern digital landscape. Primarily, though, Open Windows is a cracking good thriller that surprisingly compelling its is marriage of Rear Window voyeurism and Enemy of the State techno-paranoia.

The fluidly fractured frame of OPEN WINDOWS
Elijah Wood continues a successful career trajectory towards producing and starring in genre films of the fantastic and the bizarre which started with his turn as Kevin in Sin City through his starring role in the Maniac remake and into recent appearances in films like Grand Piano and the upcoming Cooties. Open Windows may not be his best performance, but it's really the film editing and visual style that take precedence in generating the compelling thrust of the story. I always find Sasha Grey uniformly flat in all the acting she does, but in Open Windows she does embody the bitchiness, the world-weariness, and the note of depressed, detached horror-surprise that's perfect for the role of Jill.

When you open a window on your computer, who's looking in?
In Open Windows, viewers are trapped in an inescapable paradox of being the voyeur and the observed. And doesn't that just so perfectly sum up where technology is taking us?

More great films are screening all week at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Browse the remaining line-up and order your tickets today!

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