David Koepp is what you could call a "jack of all trades" when it comes to screenwriting. He can do your big-budget summer blockbuster (See: Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible), your dramatic thriller (See: Panic Room, Stir of Echoes), even adaptations (See: Jurrasic Park). OK, so he wrote Snake Eyes too, but hey, no one is perfect. He is one of the best screenwriters in the biz, and guess what? He can direct too (Stir of Echoes). So with his talent along with the new cool kid in the school of showbusiness, Johnny Depp (For the record, I've sung his praises for years) I figured I was in for quite a treat. Boy, was I right!
There were only a few minor things that bugged me about the movie, so I'll just get them out of the way now. One thing is the cliche about writers. Apparently, anyone that's published a few books must live in seclusion by a lake or river (See: Insomnia). Wonder Boys is an exception, and Morton Rainey (Depp) did live in suburban New York City with his wife when he was married, but when I saw his cabin by the lake, it's something I've seen before. And these quirky writer stories aren't all that new either (See: Wonder Boys and, to some extent, Leaving Las Vegas and others). But everything about the movie is so great that you don't even focus on these problems that much. It does kind of make you wonder about Stephen King, who wrote the short story "Secret Window, Secret Garden" that this movie was based on. King is a writer, wrting about a writer doing some shady things that I won't spoil in this review. It just kind of makes you wonder about King's hobbies up in Maine...
Now for the good stuff. The movie starts out with Rainey sitting in his car in the parking lot of a motel, where in one of the rooms, his wife is in bed with another man. He tells himself not to go back, but he does and bursts in their room, yelling and screaming at them. We cut to 6 months later where the mysterious John Shooter shows up at Rainey's cabin door, accusing him of stealing his story. Even though Rainey wrote his story a few years before Shooter wrote his, he must find a way to appease the Southerner before Rainey finds out how serious he is.
The acting here is wonderful. Depp adds another to a string of great performances as Morton Rainey. He has amazing range and although he can pretty much play anybody, it seems as if this role was tailored just for him, because Depp as Rainey is just a perfect fit. The only other actor with significant screen time is John Turturro. He is as underrated as Depp had been prior to Pirates of the Carribbean. He is also a great actor, with a lot of diverse roles under his belt, and he shows us he can be creepy too as the serious Southerner John Shooter. The performances from Maria Bello, Charles S. Dutton and Timothy Hutton are nice, but they aren't on screen that much. Not that they really should be, though. This is basically a Johnny Depp one-man-show with John Turturro as his foe. Most of Koepp's work isn't laced with a glut of characters, which leaves room to develop his characters fully, which is done very nicely in this movie.
Koepp's script is just marvelous. It's perfectly paced, with thourgouhly developed characters and some amazing twists and turns at the end. The basis of the story has been done before, but Koepp puts a great spin on it. You'll get chills at the end, honestly. It's just creepy and incredibly well-done. This definitely isn't a movie that caters the the lowest common denomenator, like most movies and TV shows. Most movies and shows are written so that the dumbest person in America will be able to understand and grasp it. But this movie, like most of Koepp's other works, you have to really pay attention, and, God forbid, think. There should really be more movies out there like this, because it proves that movies can be intelligent, scary and funny all at the same time.
Koepp does a great job at the helm too, using some masterful cinematography from David Murphy using some very long, sweeping shots that are shown just beautifully. Koepp doesn't direct all his scripts, but the scripts that he doesn't direct are handled by some of the best in the business: Steven Spielberg (Jurrassic Park) David Fincher (Panic Room) and, Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes). So he's obviously learned from some of the best, and it shows in his direction. He is great with his talent too, getting more out of Depp than anyone had since Terry Gilliam directed him in the wonderful, highly underrated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Sure, Depp's performance was just as wonderful in Pirates of the Carribbean, but his role in this movie required a lot more range, and Koepp got everything he could from Mr. Depp.
Secret Window is a movie about loss and the fine line between reality and fiction. To put it bluntly, this movie just fricking rocked! Everything about this movie just rocked! It's true that we have seen these movies about quirky writers before. But with a performance from, honestly, one of the best actors of my time, and crafted by a top-notch writer-director, it's no secret that Secret Window is the best movie to come out so far this year.