Christian Movie Interviews, News and Reviews

"Secret Window" - Movie Review

  • Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
  • 2004 11 Mar
"Secret Window" - Movie Review

Release Date:  March 12, 2004
Rating:  PG-13 (for violence/terror, sexual content and language)
Genre:  Drama/Thriller/Horror
Run Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Director:  David Koepp
Actors:  Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles Dutton

Johnny Depp is back once again, this time offering a glimpse into the mysterious world of writers, who seem to spend all of their time drinking, sleeping or facing a blank screen. When they’re not doing that, they’re losing their minds. Or so it seems.

Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is having a mighty bad time of things. A successful author, Mort is now suffering from a prolonged case of writer’s block created by painful memories of his wife in bed with another man. Amy (Maria Bello) lives in their beautiful house with her new boyfriend, while Mort is stuck in the couple’s remote lake cabin, trying to get back his life while avoiding the divorce papers that Amy keeps sending.

One afternoon, a black-hatted stranger named Shooter (John Turturro) shows up at Mort’s front door, claiming that Mort plagiarized a story he has written. The two stories are almost identical, and Mort is a little ethically challenged.  He once stole a story and had to pay off the author to keep quiet. But this time, the story is his – even if Mort happened to be under the influence of old Jack (Daniels) at the time he wrote it. …


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Shooter gives Mort three days to produce the original Ellery Queen Magazine, where Mort swears his story was published years before Shooter wrote his. To drive home his point, Shooter then kills Mort’s dog. He also burns down a house, which impedes Mort from getting his hands on the magazine. 

Johnny Depp is the best actor in Hollywood, and his performance in “Secret Window,” like everything else he does, is positively inspired. In many ways, the requirements of this film remind me of Tom Hanks’ performance in “Cast Away,” with so much of the film’s success hinging on one actor’s ability to credibly carry the story. Like Hanks, Depp delivers – admirably so. Equally, John Turturro delves into his role with malicious glee, and I fully expect to see Oscar nominations for both men this time next year. Maria Bello, Charles S. Dutton (as a private investigator) and Timothy Hutton (as the boyfriend) hold their own as well.  Fred Murphy’s cinematography, with his spooky night shots and vistas of the fog-covered lake, is excellent, as is Phillip Glass’ music score.

David Koepp’s direction is also top-notch, and his screenplay, adapted from a Stephen King novella, contains original dialogue that lends depth to the characters and carries the plot forward. Unfortunately, King fans will be disappointed at the obvious rehash of King’s previous work, much of which involves predictable horror-scenarios. For example, Mort keeps returning to his isolated cabin, where the psycho can find him, despite the fact that the local sheriff is too busy with his needlework to care and there are no decent locks on the doors. We’ve also got the dead dog, the arson, and so forth. Not wildly inspired, but it will all have you jumping, nevertheless.

The language in the film is mild, although there are several profanities. The first scene, and subsequent flashbacks, show Amy in bed with her lover, but no nudity. And the violence, including multiple murders, is implied, although we see graphic “after” shots of bloody, dead bodies.

Thrillers are an interesting genre, and for Christians, something worth thinking about. We know that fear is a tool of the enemy, and we also know that the world is filled with evil. Is it, therefore, something that we should seek out for entertainment? And if we do, what does it mean that evil – or the threat of evil – actually gives us a “thrill”? Anyone who has ever experienced the death of a loved one or who works around death and dying knows that there is nothing fun or exciting about it. God redeems death and removes its sting, giving us the hope for eternity together, but the process itself is one that is almost always gut-wrenching. So the Hollywood genre, and our susceptibility to it, might well be something to ponder.

In the case of “Secret Window,” there is meaning behind the evil. Its source, once revealed, is clear and undaunted, demonstrating that evil is not only frighteningly real but something that must be avoided at all cost. The film also demonstrates the high cost of marital infidelity and the kind of evil that can be unleashed when we choose to follow our sinful desires. It shows the aftermath of divorce, and anyone who has lived through that nightmare can certainly relate to Mort’s fascination with unending naps and the bottle, as well as his propensity to walk around in his wife’s now-tattered bathrobe sporting a hairdo that would give anyone the chills.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the film is that justice remains at bay. That’s something that should give us all the creeps.