Secret Window

It is practically mandated by law now that there has to be at least one Stephen King adaptation a year and Secret Window is 2004's contribution. Johnny Depp fronts this psychological thriller with all the twist and turns of a roller coaster, but without all the heavy vomiting afterwards. Fresh off his Academy Award nominated performance in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Johnny Depp plays Mort Rainey, a depressed author suffering from writer’s block who copes with his failed marriage by escaping to a secluded cabin in upstate New York. After being accused of plagiarism by an Amish looking Mississippi dairy farmer named John Shooter (John Turturro), a series of strange events unfold much to the dismay of Rainey.

When things get too strange, Mort hires a private investigator (Charles S. Dutton) to flush out the creepy Shooter. Meanwhile Mort's ex-wife Amy (Maria Bello) and her beau Ted (King adaptation veteran Timothy Hutton) complicate things for Mort, making all of the trio's scenes together ooze with delightful tension, a tension set up by the opening scene of the movie. However, all of the strangeness and tension deliver a solid pay off in the movie's climax, a conclusion that sets the example of the good ending so important to Mort Rainey and John Shooter.

Writer/Director David Koepp’s visual style is fluent throughout the entire film and never is there a dull moment. The film includes a multitude of phone call scenes with pages upon pages of dialogue, but not one of them kills the pacing. The imagery of the mirrors, and the use of subtle CG elements and editing tricks make Mort’s world of the cabin surreal as well as sublime.

Depp is the most consistent actor on the planet. Even in really bad movies his performance is great - a movie can suck, but he can’t go wrong. Depp’s Rainey is eccentric and lazy, and his forlorn mood over his marriage is apparent all throughout. Depp’s charisma shines in the genre, a charisma that was not tapped in his screen debut as Glen Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Bello appears to be slightly cold, as does Hutton, but over time their coldness makes perfect sense. Dutton continues to play “the guy you wouldn’t want to mess with” role to perfection. Unlike R. Lee Ermey, Dutton’s hard asses aren’t one dimensional, there is always depth to them. I still conclude that Charles S. Dutton is always one performance away from an Academy Award every time he gets in front of the camera.

Overall I enjoyed Secret Window, it’s another odd and eccentric Johnny Depp performance that drives you to keep watching what unfolds. Behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Kill Bill: Volume 2, this, to me, is easily one the best movies of the spring. There is no screw job on this DVD release. A highly informative commentary, three good featurettes, a number of deleted scenes, and animatic storyboards comprise this “edition”.

David Koepp’s commentary is very enlightening. It delves into his mindset, and his thought process on the flick unfolds before our very...ears. Sprinkled with doses of cursing anecdotes and Johnny Depp ass kissing, Koepp provides insight about what he was going for and the way that he works. Rarely does one actually get that from a director’s commentary, which makes this a good track, although it would’ve been nice to have a few other folks in the room with him.

The three featurettes total one hour and encompass the path taken to adapt the Stephen King story Secret Window, Secret Garden from the casting, through the filming, to all the post production tricks. Thanks to the "Play All" feature (big bonus) all 3 featurettes are fluid with one another and dive into the production of the movie. More in-depth than any typical five minute behind the scenes montage of interviews, that’s for sure.

Deleted scenes are always a treat; sometimes they’re included just to show stuff that doesn’t work. In this case, an alternate ending turns suggestion into actual proof, but all in all you can see why they were cut out in the first place. Finally come the animatics. Most of the time that kind of pre-production thing is really boring to me, but these animated storyboards help see how Koepp’s vision evolved.

This is a pretty decent release from the good folks at Sony. The words “Special Edition” are nowhere on the cover, but they took special care as not to screw over the DVD viewer. It’s a relief to not see a studio cop out on the DVD release. Bravo Sony, Bravo!