When Nick (Elijah Wood) discovers that he's won a dinner date with his favorite star Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey), he's incredibly excited to finally get the chance to meet her. That excitement deflates when Jill refuses to honor the contest and all of Nick's hopes are dashed. He's intrigued when Chord (Neil Maskell), a man claiming to be Jill's campaign manager, offers him something he can't quite refuse, the ability to constantly view Jill via computer. Nick is initially reluctant, but is finally persuaded, unaware that this decision will put both Jill and him at risk.
'Open Windows' is a pretty nifty idea for a movie, that sadly tries to do way too much with its premise and regrettably falls apart in its second half. But up until then, it's a moderately entertaining ride. The movie stars Elijah Wood as Nick Chambers, a Internet blogger and webmaster who has a site devoted to his favorite actress, Jill Goddard (played by former adult star, Sasha Grey). As the movie gets underway, Nick is in a hotel room watching a live stream of a press conference for Jill's latest movie. The reason he's there is because he's won a contest for the best site devoted to Jill and is supposed to have an exclusive interview with her once the press conference ends.
The vast majority of this movie – and the entire first half of the story – takes place exclusively by viewing the screen on Nick's laptop. We see him via his webcam, see other characters through their own webcams or Internet devices, and see other things via security cams in and around where Nick is staying. It's a pretty creative premise for a movie, and one that doesn't quite wear out its welcome as fast as you might think. Later in the story, however, due to plot circumstances, the computer screen gimmick is slightly abandoned, and the movie switches more to cell phones, hand-held video cameras, and the like…it's perhaps no coincidence that the storyline also loses steam at this junction.
However, before the plot starts to unravel, things are both interesting and engaging. While watching Jill's press conference, Nick gets an online call from a faceless man with a British accent. He explains to Nick that Jill has cancelled her interview with him and the man wants Nick to help him out, starting by setting up a camera in his room to view the room that Jill is going to in the hotel to meet her boyfriend (the reason she's skipping out on the interview with Nick). Of course, there's no reason for Nick to trust or listen to the guy on his computer, but if the character used any sense or logic in these opening moments, we wouldn't have much of a story, would we? Fortunately, and to the screenplay's credit, Nick does ask logical questions about why he's being asked to do what he's doing along the way.
Without giving too much of the story away, Nick finds himself in a situation where he has no choice but to listen to the mysterious man, lest he get framed for all the events he's helped out with. Eventually, the plot leads Nick outside of his hotel room and into a car, and it's at this point that 'Open Windows' begins to fall apart – making the plot both more complex and more convoluted at the same time, until it eventually gets to the point that viewers won't care what happens to either the characters of Nick or Jill. In fact, there's a 'twist' to one of the lead characters late in the movie that suddenly removes any sympathy or emotional investment one will have in them. I'm sure the creators thought it was a neat spin, but it actually results in the viewer having no desire to watch 'Open Windows' a second time.
For what he's asked to do in 'Open Windows', Elijah Wood gives a pretty solid performance, and he's the main reason the film stays as interesting for as long as it does. As for Sasha Grey, given her porn background, potential viewers might be wondering if there's a lot of nudity and/or sex scenes in the movie. There's not, although we do get one topless scene featuring the actress – even though it's not one where the circumstances involve anything erotic at all. Sasha isn't asked to do much in the movie (she probably has less than half the screentime Elijah does), and that's probably a wise choice by director Nacho Vigalondo. She's obviously not the most talented actress in the world, but she acquits herself nicely here and certainly doesn't do anything to make 'Open Windows' any more disappointing than it already is.
'Open Windows' can best be described as an interesting idea that doesn't quite live up to its potential. Even though the movie becomes less interesting as it goes along, I can't say that I was bored with it – and actually enjoyed the first 45 minutes or so quite a bit. For that reason, it's worth a look…even though it's something most viewers will only sit through a single time.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Open Windows' uploads onto Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc, with no inserts. There are no front-loaded trailers or advertisements on the disc, which goes straight to the main menu, consisting of a digitized still image of stars Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey, with menu selections in a square box on the bottom left side of the screen.
This Blu-ray is Region A locked.
'Open Windows' appears to have been shot exclusively with digital camera equipment, so it's rather remarkable how flat and unimpressive most of the movie looks throughout. Most of the imagery is supposed to be via webcam, so I suppose there's a logical basis for the noise and lack of sharpness in most of the movie, but the film is far from impressive on Blu-ray. The second half of the movie makes use more of hand-held cameras than stationary ones, and these images come off a bit better, but black levels still aren't all that great, there's not an impressive amount of detail to be found anywhere, and the colors throughout came off as rather drab. While a lot of this is the result of directorial choices and cinematography, there's no denying that this is a pretty unremarkable movie visually speaking.
With the above in mind, there are also no problems with glitches in the transfer – so while the movie isn't stellar in terms of high-def 'pop', it's also free of issues like banding, aliasing, or other annoyances.
The only available audio on this release is a English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which is fairly average, at best. The dialogue throughout the movie comes exclusively from the front center channel, and at times it sounds pretty flat and muddy. There's not much going on in terms of action during the first half of the movie, which means that the remaining surround speakers are only used to enhance the musical soundtrack. During the second half of the movie, there are more scenes involving car chases, car crashes, and a few explosions – and here the track sounds much better, including a handful of nice directional moments.
However, overall, the audio is far from impressive and doesn’t even sound like a surround track during much of the movie, let alone a DTS-HD lossless one.
Subtitles are available in English.
'Open Windows' is a rather fun idea for a thriller that almost manages to work – that is, until the movie becomes hopelessly (and needlessly) convoluted and outstays its welcome by a good 30 minutes or so. However, there's enough going on in the first half of the movie to make this one worth a viewing.