Starring: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles Dutton
Director: David Koepp
If, after watching “Secret Window”, someone asked you to offer a guess as to the writer of the novel the movie is based on, you would be hard pressed not to hazard a guess at Stephen King. Just check out this plot.
Mort Rainey (Depp – “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Blow”, “From Hell”, “Chocolat”) is a writer who isolates himself after discovering his wife, Amy (Bello – “Duets”, “Coyote Ugly”, “Payback”), is having an affair with Ted (Hutton – “The Generals Daughter”, “Beautiful Girls”, “French Kiss”, “The Dark Half”). During a severe bout of writers block, Rainey is visited by a Southern strangers called John Shooter (Turturro – “Mr Deeds”, “Collateral Damage”, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, “The Big Lebowski”). Shooter accuses Rainey of stealing his story, dumping a copy on his doorstep before he leaves. When Rainey reads it, he discovers that it is almost identical to his old story, “Secret Window”. As Shooter turns up the heat on Rainey, he finds himself embroiled in a battle of wits that threatens him and the lives of those around him.
I’m not that into the whole Stephen King bandwagon as it is. I’ve read, or attempted to read, four to five of his books and with the exception of “The Shawshank Redempion”, I’ve never been particularly entertained. Watching the movies that have come from his stories, many of them carry similar characteristics from one to the next – the troubled writer, the mysterious stranger, the quirky sherrif, the battle between “right” and “wrong”.
So it was with a weary eye that I viewed “Secret Window”. First off Johnny Depp is a perfect piece of casting. Fresh from his brilliantly bizzare turn as Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, he gives a well hammed-up turn as dead-end writer, Mort. There is no issue being on his side in his battle with Shooter (a role played in his sleep by the always-entertaining Turturro), despite the suspicion that he might indeed have plagerised the stranger’s story.
As the story unravles, we begin to learn more about Mort’s personal circumstances and the little details that may in fact cast a shadow on his integrity. The other characters are not that well developed but despite their involvement you don’t always get the feeling they need to be.
I supose when it comes down to it, the question is, does “Secret Window” surprise, twist and entertain?
To some degree, yes. This isn’t “twist-a-minute” and the mystery is not mind-bending in a “Memento” type way. But it does wheel along quite smoothly until the well constructed finale.
The script is decent although probably benefits from some ad-libbing from Depp, and it is directed with tension-building camera angles and movement at times, but struggles with a slow-building story.
Overall “Secret Window” could have been another “Dreamcatcher” but it keeps its head above water and is a good way to spend ninety minutes.