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Dustin Putman

Open Windows  (2014)
2½ Stars
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo.
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Adam Quintero, Iván González, Rachel Arieff, Jaime Olías, Nacho Vigalondo.
2014 – 100 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for nudity and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, January 26, 2015.
If Lisa Kudrow's "Web Therapy" character Fiona Wallice was framed for kidnapping and murder, her trials and tribulations might look a lot like "Open Windows," an auspicious if not always wholly successful cautionary thriller of Internet-based paranoia. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo (whose segment, "Parallel Monsters," was the best thing about 2014 horror anthology "V/H/S: Viral"), the film plays out in real time, told almost exclusively through the computer screen of put-upon target Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood). As the webmaster of film starlet Jill Goddard's (Sasha Grey) fan site, Nick has won a contest to have dinner with and interview his favorite actress while she is at an Austin, Texas, convention promoting her upcoming sci-fi feature, "Dark Sky: The Third Wave." With a single call from a mystery man (Neil Maskell), he is thrust into a nightmare that gives him access to Jill's hacked cell phone and computer—the first step in setting him up as the number-one suspect in her impending abduction and assassination.

Timely if a tad overcooked, "Open Windows" is an impressive technical exercise that puts its audience in the role of eavesdropping spectators. The intricacies in pulling off this web-based storytelling conceit must have been huge, particularly under such a modest budget, but Vigalondo's savvy command makes it look like time and money were not even passing issues. Elijah Wood (2014's "Grand Piano") gamely plays Nick as an average, good-natured guy placed in a horrible position that offers few ways out and no positive alternatives. As he swirls ever deeper into trouble, a blackmailed participant in Jill's exploitation and, as it turns out, her only savior, Wood proves a supremely watchable protagonist. As Jill, the eye-catching Sasha Grey (2013's "Would You Rather") is a little less comfortable, particularly during the jumbled third act that has trouble dignifying her character's implausible arc. It is her unconvincing actions (and some business with police who show up and conveniently disappear on cue) that put a damper on an otherwise vise-gripped suspenser that reminds in its best moments of Brian De Palma in his professional prime.
© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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