Secret Window (2004) 

Alan:

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Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Let me start by saying that the only reason I gave this movie 3 stars is because Johnny Depp and John Turturro do such a great job with their roles.  It's basically a 2 star film with a couple of great performances.  I was not super disappointed with the movie, it's just that without knowing much about the film, I had an idea of what was going to happen and it turned out exactly as I expected.  

This is a now common problem with mystery suspense films (See my review of Taking Lives) but it can be overcome.  Unfortunately if you are familiar with Stephen King stories and have seen Fight Club or Identity, then there's not much surprise in this Secret.  

Based on the Stephen King novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden", the film tells the story of Mort Rainey, a writer who, after a recent separation from his wife, has gone into seclusion at his remote lakeside cottage.  As he sleeps away his depressive misery and attempts to start a new book, Rainey receives a angry visitor who insists that the writer stole one of his short stories.  The stranger, named John Shooter, leaves the manuscript for his story behind and warns Rainey that he will have to set things straight.  After an eventual comparison, Rainey sees that indeed the two stories are nearly identical but he cannot understand how this came to pass.  Shooter meanwhile has become violent and is starting to threaten Rainey and kill.

The film is well done.  I won't deny that the camera work provides the requisite creepiness and trepidation.  It's just that we've seen this story too many times in recent years and the only way to surprise us now would be to remove the "twists" and go with a straightforward good guy / bad guy scenario.  

As I said, the actors all do fine.  Johnny Depp is becoming to go-to-guy for taking standard characters and investing an interesting unique spark.  John Turturro is excellent as the villain Shooter.  His southern drawl and cadence is distinctly Stephen King.  Charles S. Dutton pops up as Rainey's personal private detective / bodyguard.  He's becoming a busy little actor of late.  Timothy Hutton and Maria Bello round out the primary cast.

If you have not seen any other mystery thrillers for the past 10-15 years then, Secret Window is the movie for you.  It's an exciting little suspense film that successfully accomplishes it's goals.  Unfortunately, for me, I've seen it all too recently so that just wasn't enough.