ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  david koepp

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  mystery

LENGTH  -  106 minutes

RELEASED  -  12 march 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  sony pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  secret window

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $40,000,000
secret window - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from secret window at

buy the dvd from secret window at

a writer is accused for plagiarism by a strange man, who then starts haunting him for "justice."

stephen king traded the rights to this film in order to get the rights to kingdom hospital.


picture from secret window

picture from secret window

picture from secret window

picture from secret window


two out of four possible stars

As with most of his feature film roles, Johnny Depp takes his character and twists and turns it into something wholly inventive, never failing to surprise the audience with quirks, twitches, and raised eyebrows. Not content with simply placing some interesting inflection into his voice or running his hand through his hair (his rather wild hair) when his character is "distressed." And Depp spends much of this movie in distressed mode. It's almost like a stage play if one considers how much screen time is spent Depp's lake-side log cabin.

But as with many horror films based on Stephen King novels, nothing is what it seems and before the credits roll, just about every character's done a complete 180. But the strange thing about this film (is that redundant, calling a film based on a Stephen King work, strange?) is that the ending of the film is so easy to discern a mere twenty minutes into the film. Perhaps even earlier, viewers will know exactly what's going on with the characters, even though it's supposed to be a mysterious "secret." The title of the film couldn't be more ironic, given the lack of honest surprises in the film.

Without revealing specifics which might give away the ending (as if it's not so easy a guess anyway), the entire film is built around the hostile relationship between Johnny Depp's hermit-like writer character, "Mort Rainey," and John Turturro's menacing Southern persona, "John Shooter." Shooter arrives at Rainey's house out-of-the-blue one day and accuses him of plagiarism and Rainey must spend the length of the film warding off the dangerous mental and physical attacks Shooter heaps on him, becoming all the more impressively aggravated as time passes.

Despite minor involvement from a host of supporting characters, this film really belongs to Johnny Depp. It's his performance that will hook the viewer (if the viewer is indeed hooked at all), rather than the involvement of peripheral characters. Even though John Tuturro's performance is suitably creepy, his character isn't as mysterious as he should be. He would be quite more menacing if it wasn't so entirely obvious from a few scenes into the story what the source of his animosity toward Depp's character is.

Supporting roles are competently realized by a skilled cast, though no performance stands out as anything spectacular. As with much of the dialogue and story-line of the movie, just about every character is in the film is "off" somehow. There's something strange, annoying, or bizarre about everyone. But instead of inspiring some sort of discomfort or "edge of your seat" tension for the audience, the characters simply mill around in a plot that takes too much time to deliver its "reveal." Much of the dialogue is staidly written as well, with most of the interesting words coming from various quips and one-liners courtesy of Johnny Depp.

It's unknown how much of this film's dialogue was improvised on the set, but Depp's lines certainly are the freshest of the lot. As in 2002's Panic Room, writer David Koepp (who directed this film) pushes most of his story through a very narrow opening of narrative flow, making the plot far too simple. Simplicity is probably part of what make the surprise ending not so much of a surprise. The smoothly moving film doesn't grab the viewer with visuals or dialogue (save that of Depp's many jokes)

The technical aspects of the film are as smooth and professional as one would expect from a production that can boast this level of acting talent. The editing, cinematography, and musical score combine to create a more than steady threshold on which the characters stand. But in considering the important aspects of plot and dialogue, one can't help but figure that this novella just wasn't easy to convert to feature film form.

Since Secret Window is a film based on a book, it stands to reason that in the light of the lackluster showing on film, something was lost in the translation from novel to screen. Creating a film thriller is a dicey business as audiences today will chew up and spit out simple plots in seconds. The world created in the novel might have created excitement for the producers, but in gauging the final product, one can only conclude that either the story just wasn't meant for the screen, or the book itself was not as engaging as it should have been to warrant an adaptation to film. Fans of Johnny Depp will be pleased with the tenacity with which he attacks his role, but the general viewer should be warned of potential boredom.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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