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Novelist Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is having a bad attack of writer's block, in the middle of painful divorce proceedings. Things get even worse when a black hatted and intense John Shooter (John Turturro) bangs on the door of his isolated lakeside hut, accusing Rainey of plagiarising his story and demanding satisfaction. Rainey insists his innocence but Shooter becomes more and more threatening. As Rainey tries to find a way out of the impasse, the body count begins.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The best part of Secret Window is everything right up to the twist at the end. This is where the writer's device is exposed and it's where the audience realises it has been fed red herrings, led up garden paths and generally hoodwinked by the storyteller. True, that's what psychological thrillers are meant to do. My only reservation is that the twist is a little bit too clever and that after the revelation our characters undergo subtle changes as if no longer constrained by the feints of the script.

But nothing can take away from the edgy direction and the top performances, the superb score and the excellent production design. Writer/director David Koepp (working from a Stephen King novella) creates a terrific mood as he establishes the character of Mort Rainey, a crumpled but sympathetic character whose painful divorce appears to be defeating him as much as his writer's block. Johnny Depp develops Mort with great finesse, adding layers with each grimace, each line of dialogue and each aside to his faithful dog.

John Turturro turns up the tension as he bangs the door down, full of restrained menace as an aggrieved writer from Mississippi, whose story he claims Rainey has stolen. And he is intent on getting satisfaction - or else.

As the story gains momentum, the lighter, comedic tone gives way to ugly drama and the danger implied by Shooter becomes all too immediate and real. Koepp handles the subtle shifting with great skill, all the while pushing us further into the unknown, until the denouement. It's a taut film, and with its ample cinematic accomplishments, provides psycho-thrills right up to the last frame - which is, happily, not a predictable fairy tale finish.

Special features reviewed by Craig Miller:
If every DVD release came with the extras like the ones included on Secret Window, most viewers and collectors would be pretty happy. There's no award for quantity here, but if it's an insight into the real making of a film, real quality you're after, then here it is.

Having penned some wonderfully entertaining scripts in recent years (Spider-Man, Panic Room), writer/director David Koepp knows the importance of a good story and script, and it's this fine knowledge of his art that shines through in his very chatty commentary. An extremely entertaining affair, Koepp strikes just the right balance between anecdotes and info, and covers everything from adapting Stephen King's novella, Secret Window, Secret Garden, through to his frustrating work in getting a squirrel to sit still and look directly at the camera, just to get that perfect shot.

The series of three featurettes (or one hour doco depending if you use the included play all function) deliver an excellent blend of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with all the main players, and delve into the very psyche of this classy thriller.

Also there are a couple of deleted scenes with optional commentary and four animatics, but if you're not sold before then, it's probably a little late.

Published August 12, 2004

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton, Len Cariou

DIRECTOR: David Koepp

SCRIPT: David Koepp (Based on a Stephen King novella)

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 2.45:1 16:9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with writer/director David Koepp, Deleted scenes, From Book to Film featurette, A Look Through It, Secrets Revealed, Animatics and Trailers.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Tristar

DVD RELEASE: August 11, 2004

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