SECRET IN THEIR EYES
DIRECTOR: Billy Ray
RELEASE DATE: 11/20/2015
STARRING: Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts,
Dean Norris, Alfred Molina, and Michael Kelly.
There’s no real concrete formula to producing a great mystery, but one thing that tends to always be involved is a complex twist. Secret In Their Eyes delivers on that twist but ultimately falls short in a lot of other areas.
Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Jess (Julia Roberts), and Claire (Nicole Kidman) are part of a squad of counter-terrorism agents working in LA. They get called to investigate a murder at a mosque and find out the victim is the daughter of one of their own team. The film then sets out to find who is responsible while dealing with the repercussions of losing a loved one.
The first thing I thought to myself after the credits started to roll, “It seems like a great film could have been somewhere in there.” I mention this only because I found out retroactively that this was a remake of a 2009 Argentinian movie called “The” Secret In Their Eyes. I’ve read lots of positive reviews of the original, now after finding out about it, and maybe I was right… maybe the great film resides within the confines of the original. I guess I’ll have to watch it and find out, but for now, let’s focus on the American remake.
Secret In Their Eyes opens strongly, then becomes pretty bland throughout the middle, and wraps up with a satisfying reveal at the end. The issues with pacing, however, are not the only problems with the film.
Secret In Their Eyes jumps back and forth chronologically, from 13 years in the past when the murder occurred, to the present. This form of storytelling isn’t exactly a new thing, but with this film I found it to be confusing to a degree. Not that I couldn’t follow along, but they didn’t do a great job at making some of the characters look older. Especially Julia Roberts, so in some scenes you’re left guessing as to what time period we’re in before piecing it together for yourself.
There is a horrible attempt at creating “chemistry” between Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman that could have been completely cut out of this. The whole romance angle seemed counter intuitive to the story and I think the film would have been stronger without it.
Some aspects of the writing seemed lazy, like how they connected the killer to baseball through his hand made comic book. This revelation leads Ray to scour a sea of baseball fans at Dodger’s stadium, in the hopes that maybe the suspect is at this particular game and he’ll magically spot him. I won’t even start with Jess’ halfbaked plan to stake out some sports bar every night on the off chance that this guy might just show up.
Besides a strong finish, there were a lot of well acted moments, especially coming from Chiwetel Ejiofor, that helped save this film for me. But at the end it wasn’t really enough to help make the experience very memorable.