Secret Window
R4 - Australia - Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (8th September 2004).
The Film

For the better part of a decade screenwriter David Koepp has been responsible for some of Hollywood's most high profile writing jobs, churning out scripts for Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Carlito's Way, Mission: Impossible, Panic Room and Spider-Man to name a few. Koepp has made a name for himself as a blockbuster writer. Major studios and big time directors seek this man to write their big budget adventure and action packed films, in fact he's currently writing Steven Spielberg's next film a retelling of the classic H.G. Wells story The War of the Worlds which will no doubt be a giant-sized spectacle upon release. Despite the fact that he's commissioned often to write these mammoth films Koepp himself has also carved out a fine career as a director with smaller more character driver stories such as the 1999 film Stir of Echoes and more notably with this film Secret Window an adaptation of a Stephen King short story entitled Secret Window, Secret Garden.
Secret Window tells the story of successful writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) who has a serious case of writer's block and is going through a painful divorce from his wife Amy (Maria Bello) after discovering that she is cheating on him with her lover Ted (Timothy Hutton). Having split up Mort has isolated himself to a cabin in the woods, when one day a mysterious southern man John Shooter (John Turturro) arrives on his doorstep accusing Mort of plagiarism and threatening revenge, Shooter sparks a mind-bending game of cat and mouse that leaves Mort afraid for his life. Employing the help of a private investigator come bodyguard Ken Karsch (Charles S. Dutton) to help him find Shooter and shake some sense into who he's dealing with. But when things start to go bad Mort finds himself in a whole new ball game that keeps even him in the dark until the very end.
Secret Window is a very entertaining and well-crafted thriller with several elements that work together to culminate in a twist ending that not only shocks but also delivers edge-of-your-seat excitement. Koepp has written a strong piece of work from King's original short story, each character is given time to develop throughout the film, the slow pacing is deliberate to build tension until the last 20-minutes, and to top it off the dialogue is fresh and is most importantly believable coming from these characters. Taking the script further as a director Koepp has managed to extract wonderful performances from his two male leads. Depp plays the role of Mort Rainey as if he's lived the mans life for years, adding his own quirky sensibilities such as his constant need to grind his teeth to make the character all the more human is the sign of a talented performer, additionally Turturro is able to hold his own as the southern man Shooter here with a very deep southern slur accent that at times may seem over the top but once the end is reveal that feeling is justified. The cast also includes strong supporting performances from Maria Bello who plays Mort's separated wife Amy is a treat to watch, her emotional range far exceeds some of today's top actresses, which begs the question why isn't this woman in more films? Veteran actor Charles S. Dutton also contributes to this film with a fine performance as the investigator Mort hires to find information on Shooter, adding some nice character moments such as the timer used between conversations at his office. Finally we have Amy's lover and new man in her life since her split-up with Mort, Ted is played by Timothy Hutton, who has managed to portray the classic hated figure that came between her marriage. These great performances can not only be attributed to fine casting but also to a fine sense of direction from Koepp who has taken his own script and created something rather special for the big screen, a fresh, clever and entertaining thriller that doesn't convolute itself.
Other areas of note include the precisely natural yet moody photography of Fred Murphy that lends itself quite well to this film, and Philip Glass score that accurately accentuates the scenes in this film. Secret Window will provide a great night's entertainment and his highly recommended.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.40:1, this anamorphic transfer is excellent with very few flaws. The image is sharp and is free of film grain, the colours are well presented here without any bleeding. Additionally blacks are bold and shadow detail is near impeccable, the only problem I could find with this transfer is a few instances of edge enhancement, that although are noticeable to myself would not be so to your average Joe and are not entirely distracting to the overall image. Aside from this minor quibble this transfer is near to perfection one would hope for a film this recent.

Audio

This DVD includes four separate audio channels in English, Italian, Hungarian and Polish, all are in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. Dialogue always came out clear without any distortion problems, additionally the music, sound effects and atmospheric surround where also distortion free and are mixed well, employing smooth separation so that the dialogue is never drowned out by these surrounds. The full effect of the 5.1 surrounds is put to better and more active use during the dramatic scenes in the film and also employs the use of the sub woofer channel, which provided a nice touch to those scenes. This is a top-notch track that compliments the great transfer.
This film also includes optional subtitles in English, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Swedish and Turkish.

Extras

The first extra you'll come across on this disc is the feature-length audio commentary by writer/director David Koepp. Koepp manages to keep your interests throughout the track discussing different aspects of the production from writing and adaptation of a story to the screen including the differences between the King short story and this film, additionally he also talks about the various filmmaking practices used that helped make this film what it is. This audio commentary also features optional subtitles in Dutch, English and Italian.

Following that we have a series of 4 deleted scenes, the first two of which include an optional commentary by Koepp in them he describes the scenes you're watching and the reasons as to why they where dropped from the final edit. You have the option to Play All or you can view the scenes individually. The deleted scenes include:
- Shooter Starts the Fire - in this deleted scene we actually see John Shooter starting the fire at Amy's house, in the film we only see the aftermath.
- Mort at the Diner - This is more an extension to an already existing scene where Mort makes his way to the Diner to meet with his investigator Ken, here we see Mort stepping in dog s**t before he enters the diner, although a funny moment it was trimmed for pacing reasons.
- Mort Questions Sonny - In this scene Mort is looking for Tom, the man who drove passed his cabin while he was talking to Shooter.
- Longer End Shot: Pan to Dead Bodies - This is an extension to the already existent ending.

Following the deleted scenes are a series of 3 featurettes that you have the option to Play All or select them individually. The featurettes include:
- From Book to Film - this 9 minute 10 second piece focuses on the adaptation process and highlights the importance of the characters and story development.
- A Look Through It - running at 29 minutes 43 seconds this is the best of the three featurettes and focuses on the overall look of the film, the cinematography, the use of visual trickery and the approach Koepp used in directing this piece. In this featurette we have interviews with key cast and crew edited in with some behind-the-scene footage.
- Secrets Revealed - running at 14 minutes 3 seconds this final featurette reveals the subtle visual and character clues that where integrated into the film.

Next we have a series of 4 storyboard animatics. Animatics are in essence moving storyboards, where the scene and its shots are rendered in a rough state in the computer. This gives the director a chance to see how the scene plays out before shooting begins. The four scenes we have are the Opening Credits, Pushing The Car Off The Cliff, Twist Revealed and Into the Garden. This is a great feature that gives viewers an insight on how a scene is constructed but would have been a more valuable extra had these segments included a commentary.

Rounding out the extras are the film's Theatrical trailer plus some bonus trailers for Spider-Man 2, Hellboy and The Missing.

Packaging

The packaging states that this is a Region 4 release, it is in fact encoded for Region 2, 4 & 5.

Overall

Secret Window is a well-made thriller that delivers on suspense and includes wonderful performances from the cast. The Columbia DVD presents the film with great audio and visual transfers and some decent enough extras. This DVD comes highly recommended.

The Film: A Video: A- Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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