There’s a decent reworking inside of this tech minded thriller, but the latest from Nacho Vigolondo (Time Crimes, Extraterrestrial) isn’t only one of the most sloppily plotted and wholly illogical films of the year, but perhaps even worse is how the film’s the Spanish writer and director are pulling inspiration from were terrible movies to begin with. It’s a shame because Vigolondo is decent enough director and has cast two game leads, but there’s no tap dancing around this being one of the most disappointing films of the year.
Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) is a nerdy webmaster who travels to a film festival to claim a date with his favourite actress, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey), the spoils of getting the highest bid in a charity auction that he quickly finds out was cancelled or never existed in the first place. He’s contacted in his hotel room by a mysterious hacker (Neil Maskell) who has tapped into all of Jill’s technological components and camera around him to keep tabs on the actress. Nick becomes a pawn in a game with potentially dangerous consequences for Jill, something the kindly Nick wants no part of.
The title refers to how the film takes place almost entirely though the open browser window’s on Nick’s laptop, and immediately the comparison can be made to Mike Figgis’ experimental Time Code (or the recent short film Noah), but the stylistic conceit seems to have had far more thought put into it than the plot. Wood and Grey are suitably sympathetic, and Maskell’s nicely menacing without showing his face, but there’s nothing they can do to cover up the sheer idiocy of the story.
It’s one of those techno-thrillers that you might have expected to come out shortly after The Net or The Lawnmower Man (where some of this film’s effects seem to have come from) in the mid-90s (it also takes a key beat for its ending from Virtuosity, which is a TERRIBLE FUCKING idea), and astoundingly this film has even less clue how the internet, cameras, and computer hacking works. It would be laughable if Vigolondo wasn’t so gosh darn convinced he was saying something deep and important about celebrity culture.
It has the most asinine and stupefying ending to a thriller since High Tension, and this one manages to be even more inexcusable, makes less sense, and goes on endlessly, filmed in using an unconscionably ugly and hard to look at, almost cubist filming style. Everything about Open Windows’ style reeks of overcompensation. It’s something that was clearly thought up as a stylistic exercise without ever once giving a damn about the plot or delivering something that was either entertaining or intellectual. It doesn’t matter how many twists get layered onto a story. If the narrative can’t support them, they’re useless.
At least there’s plenty of things to talk about in terms of what it gets inherently wrong. Unfortunately, outside of the leads, there’s nothing really good to say about it. (Andrew Parker)
Monday, October 20th, 7:00pm, Scotiabank Theatre