Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton
Director: David Koepp
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: June 22, 2004

“You know, the only thing that matters…is the ending. It’s the most important part of a story, the ending. And THIS ONE…is very good. This one is perfect.”

Film ***

With Johnny Depp becoming the breakout star of last year with his glorious turn in Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s the perfect time to see how much level of range the actor carries, and Secret Window is a terrific showcase for the actor. It’s a sharply crafted thriller where most of everything is relied heavily on the strength of Depp, who accompanies just about every scene in the movie. What’s more, for a role that is easily a straightforward one, Depp once again brings his profound level of uniqueness to the performance.

Depp plays Mort Rainey, a novelist who specializes in writing mystery stories. Lately, Mort’s life has hit something of a detour after he discovers his wife was cheating on him. His daily life now consists of endless depression-induced sleeping in a cabin house by the lake, where he is attempting to construct another potential best seller.

That is, until he gets an unexpected visit from a mysterious man named Shooter (John Turturro). Mort has no idea who the man is, and is just as bewildered when the southern man claims that the best selling author stole one of his stories. Mort is angered by the accusation, even in the midst of Shooter’s persistence. The story in question is titled Secret Window, and Shooter is quick to advise Mort to admit to the thievery, or come up with any evidence that proves he didn’t steal it, or face possible consequences.

As accusations continue to be thrown in his direction, and even as he hires a private investigator (Charles S. Dutton) to protect him, Mort swears that he hasn’t committed any type of fraud. When Shooter informs him that his story was written in 1997, Mort is quick to respond that he composed the story in 1994, and had it published a year later. He even claims to have a magazine to prove of its publication, but it may mean going to his soon to be divorced wife, Amy (Maria Bello), to get it.

Mort, having been separated from Amy for a while, doesn’t want to have to deal with her, especially at this point. She, along with her new boyfriend, Ted (Timothy Hutton), have been pressuring him to finalize the divorce by signing a set of divorce papers, which is something that has just been put off on more than one occasion. Mort’s reason for not dealing with it comes from the fact that she is still living in the big house in town the he bought for her while they were together, and that the notion of her and Ted sharing it doesn’t sit well with him.

NOTE: Although nothing is actually spoiled about the plot, you may not want to read the next two paragraphs if you have not yet seen the movie.

I won’t reveal too much more. The story does have a good bit of jolts along the way as far as suspense goes. However, I will confess to you something. I will admit that the last surprise offered in the movie is not too surprising. In fact, I kind of saw it coming from a mile away.

After experiencing much more shocking surprises in such recent scare fare as the stronger Identity, and especially seeing a little movie called Fight Club, the twist in the end was somehow a little bit easier to spot. So if you seen those flicks, you’ll probably be in the same boat as I was. But does it weaken the movie at all? Not at all, but I just wanted to give you fair warning about it in case you go into expecting a major surprise.

With Secret Window being an adaptation of a Stephen King short story called “Secret Window, Secret Garden”, you know what you’re in for, and you certainly get it. However, the real treat of the movie is Johnny Depp, who turns what could’ve easily been a been-there-done-that sort of role and changed it into something completely compelling and original.

Like his show-stopping acting gigs in last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, his performance in Secret Window is another fine piece of work to add to the Johnny Depp’s resume.

Video ****

Columbia Tri Star delivers yet another terrific anamorphic presentation. Director David Koepp (Stir of Echoes) has a pure sense for the stylish, and this movie illustrates that immensely, especially through this grand presentation. Detail in the image is strong and lively, and colors blend in with an ultimately superb and natural quality. A clear and incredibly crisp presentation all the way.

Audio ****

This 5.1 offering is one of the absolute best sound performances I’ve experienced in quite sometime. For a thriller, sound is always a strong key in one way or another and this disc provides a very strong example of that fact. Dialogue, individual moments of suspenseful jolts, and especially Philip Glass’ thunderous music score to the film, each combine to make quite an outstanding presentation.

Features ***1/2

Since I didn’t see a Special Edition tag on the disc, I was pleasantly surprised by all that was offered. Included is a commentary with writer/director David Koepp, four deleted scenes with optional commentary, three behind the scenes featurettes; “From Book to Film”, “A Look Through It”, and “Secrets Revealed”. Lastly, there are animated storyboards and a trailer gallery.


Johnny Depp does it again! His powerhouse performance in Secret Window is the ultimate treat, especially for any admirer of the actor. In addition, the movie is a genuinely crafty suspense pot boiler, worthy of a number of jolts and frights.