For me I’ve always considered Ridley Scott to be our greatest living filmmaker, but both you and I know that honor deserves to go to Alfred Hitchcock. With over 65 directing credits to his name, his legacy is undeniable and till this day looms large over the movie industry. Over the span of 50 years, Hitchcock had remained the master of suspense and no one crafted a thriller like him.
Like all great artists, he spawned many imitators with many of them being successful in their attempts, including: Brian De Palma, David Fincher and Roman Polanski who were all able to capture Hitchcock’s intangible talent for danger and intrigue. Now director Joe Wright can be considered as one of the successful imitators with his newest thriller “The Woman in the Window”.
A master at period piece dramas, British filmmaker Joe Wright had made an extraordinary American debut with his 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride & Prejudice”. With the director’s credits that include: “Atonement”, “The Soloist”, “Anna Karenina”, “Pan” and “The Darkest Hour” he has quickly become one of my favorite filmmakers.
Wright’s ode to Hitchcock is finally making its debut after three years of delays (including the Covid pandemic). The newly formed and Disney owned 20th Century Studios has partnered up with streaming giant Netflix to release Wright’s film, based on the popular novel of the same name by author A.J. Finn.
Following a past tragedy, child psychologist Anna (Amy Adams) has become a bipolar recluse. She never steps out of the house, interacts only with her downstairs tenant David (Wyatt Russell) and occasionally talks to her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie), who is with their child as Anna recovers. When a new family moves in across the street with a seemingly simple but kind teenage son, Ethan (Fred Hechinger). Anna is quick to suspect abuse given his behavior and the bombastic nature of his father (Gary Oldman). After speaking with Ethan’s mother (Julianne Moore), Anna feels a bit better about the situation, only to one night having witnessed her being brutally stabbed to death. There’s no proof that anything happened and Anna’s proclivity for drinking and prescription drugs makes her an unreliable narrator at best, yet she remains steadfast in her belief that something terrible has happened.
Adapted for the screen by actor, screenwriter and playwright Tracy Letts. The scripts dialogue and extended monologues all sound and feel like they were made for the stage, which makes sense considering Letts’ history as a playwright. Thankfully, “The Woman In The Window” boasts a stellar cast including: Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman (took home the Oscar for Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour”), Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell and Tracy Letts.
“The Woman in the Window” has multiple compelling sequences and clever uses of perception to preserve the misdirect of the story. There is a real throwback feel to the film and if it weren’t for the use of smartphones and computers, it would seem to have been a lost film of the ‘70s that was directed by Roman Polanski and starred Mia Farrow. Clearly inspired to many of the Hitchcock motifs, “The Woman in the Window” tries to forge its own identity by being hyper-stylized.
Wright has crafted multiple compelling sequences and stellar camera work. Most notably in a scene where blood splatters the screen and an extended climax scene that leads to a sequence on a rooftop that is both impressively intense, has some wonderful shock value and is brilliantly directed by Wright.
Wright’s use of thoroughly modern, but old school approach to the effects and playful imagery. Brings the sequences from Anna’s overly-medicated hazes, an unsettling cross between past and present, which keeps the audience simultaneously confused and intrigued. It’s easy to present a mystery with a slew of potential suspects, the hard part is wrapping everything up neatly with an ending, twist or reveal to the mystery we’ve been trying to solve for the past two hours.
“The Woman In The Window” has that “Knives Out” who dun-it approach it. Like “Knives Out” the end result isn’t the most earth shattering, but “Woman In The Window” is more thrilling in the white knuckle sense. Amy Adams, gives one of the best over acting performances in some time and her work is fragile, perfectly bipolar in nature and she creates an emotional center where we can feel for her.
Coursing through the veins of “The Woman in the Window” is the blood of Alfred Hitchcock and that’s clear from the get go. Joe Wright mostly keeps to one location the entire film and because of that he wants his movie to look big, from the sets, the cinematography, the performances and to the characters. Wright not only makes a superb thriller but there’s a deeper dissection of mental health, how we handle past traumas, how we believe other people and how we find the closure we need.
“The Woman in the Window” nails the suspense, has great grab your partners arm tension, thrills and exquisite camera work. Hitchcock would have been flattered and approved of Wright’s homage. Or at the very least, good ol’ Hitch would have said “that’s a good start”. Still, there’s plenty here to see and enjoy that makes “The Woman In The Window” worth peering into.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3.5 out of 5)