Monday, October 1, 2012

Secret Window (2004)

Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is a reclusive writer. After catching his wife, Amy (Maria Bello) with another man, Mort suffers a severe nervous breakdown. Mort secludes himself inside a
cabin in the woods, and he refuses to sign the divorce papers during his retreat. Mort receives some intense pressure from Amy, and her new boyfriend, Ted (Timothy Hutton), but Mort isn’t ready to move on with his life.

Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger accuses Mort of plagiarism. John Shooter (John Turturro) is a dairy farmer from Mississippi, and he demands proof to refute his claims. Mort dismisses Shooter as a head-case, but Shooter continues to stalk the troubled writer. Fearing the worst, Mort hires his best friend/private investigator, Ken Karsch (Charles S. Dutton) for help. But two sudden murders drastically complicate Mort’s troubles with Shooter. Eventually, Shooter threatens Mort into changing the ending to “Sowing Season.” Will Mort fix the story? Or will Mort find the proof to clear his name before it’s too late?

The supporting cast is pretty solid, but Johnny Depp and John Turturro steal the show here. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this film, and I never get tired of Depp’s performance. Depp’s quirkiness is spot on, and he really nailed the oddball side of the Mort Rainey character. Plus, Depp showcases a dark side during the revealing of John Shooter’s true identity. Depp was able to provide some laughs along the way, but you can also feel sympathy for Mort Rainey, because he’s lonely and heartbroken. Mort Rainey is a complex man, and Depp really nailed this character.

John Turturro is just fantastic. Turturro isn’t a big muscular guy, but he still provided an intimidating presence as John Shooter. Turturro’s sharp Southern accent and his cold and calculating demeanor transformed Shooter into a believable threat. Turturro is in top form here, and you will see one of his memorable performances in this film.

As a director, David Koepp’s style is pretty solid. Koepp provides a few spooky nighttime scenes, but as a writer, he did provide an enjoyable story for this film. Adapting a Stephen King story is a tricky task. We’ve seen some good films over the years (Pet Sematary, Misery, Carrie), but you can’t forget about the bad films (Bag Of Bones, Thinner, The Dark Half). It’s not easy. King’s novels are filled with rich characters and complex storylines, but Koepp provided one of the better adapted screenplays for a King novella. Secret Window, Secret Garden (the name of the novella this film is based on) is a good read, that features some wonderful storytelling from King. The movie gives us more violence, and Koepp changes the ending. But Koepp deserves credit for some excellent dialogue, and Koepp’s screenplay outshines his work behind the camera here.

Secret Window is a fantastic psychological thriller. The story is filled with enough twists and turns, that will keep you guessing until the very end. The curveballs will hook you into the story, and the shocking conclusion delivers a great surprise. It’s not as good as The Mist’s ending, but the final minutes of Secret Window provide some good jaw-dropping moments.

Final Rating: 8/10

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