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Easily my favourite film of FrightFest 2014, Nacho Vigalondo's audacious hi-tech real-time thriller is also one of the best films of the year so far and it's a pity there doesn't seem to be a UK release on the horizon. One hopes, because for the most part it's gripping as hell, visually stylish despite being shot entirely through webcams, cellphones and security cameras, and horrifying in its suggestions of what a determined individual can do with computers. Granted, it does take its foot off the gas in the last twenty minutes or so, losing tension rather than cranking it up even more, but even so it's a treat. Oh, and it's all done in one single shot.
Not really, of course. Technically, Open Windows is one unblinking stare at the laptop display of webmaster Elijah Wood, in town to interview top movie star Sasha Grey for his fansite. He's suddenly contacted online by Neil Maskell and informed the interview is cancelled - but he can still obtain lots of juicy information by installing a few tools to hack into her cellphone and access all her conversations, such as the imminent meeting with her agent in a hotel room. But things get complicated when the agent spots him, and Wood ends up forced to take physical action...
Much of the first hour or more, with Vigalondo's camera roaming over the various displays on Wood's desktop, makes for a dazzling extended split-screen sequence that overshadows even vintage Brian De Palma, not least because the multiple viewpoints technique doesn't just last for a couple of minutes like the setpieces in Blow Out or Sisters, but just keeps going throughout the whole film. He even manages to include a car chase! It's a pity that the film feels the need to put in extra plot twists that diffuse the excitement towards the end, bringing into question who Wood and Maskell really are, and raising the stakes far above the apparently pointless harassment of a hot movie star, because for my money it was already exciting enough at that level.
Sure, the technology on display is far-fetched. Seeing through concrete walls? Where are the popups telling Wood that he can't open this link until he installs a software upgrade? Or the "Buffering: 17%" messages? How come his internet connection never goes down or his laptop battery doesn't run out at an inopportune moment? But that doesn't matter: it's all a dramatic device to tell the story, no more representative of reality than the absurd forensic technogubbins you see every week on CSI. And for at least 80% of Open Windows it works brilliantly. I want to see it again.