Secret in Their Eyes
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly,
Billy Ray’s Secret in Their Eyes feels more like the writer/director is trying to deliver the same type of Thanksgiving thrills Prisoners (2013) did two years ago. Secret in Their Eyes is actually a remake of the Argentinian film of the same name, only with some of the gender roles changed. Secret in Their Eyes gets into the Alex Cross style of detective story, its dark and about rape/murder, but edited down for a PG-13 audience. Ironically this story, set in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks where America was on heightened alert, debuts at an interesting time with the security of our nation on alert again. There are quite a few head scratching moments in this script, not only with characterization but plot devices, yet the performances and the rarity of seeing two powerhouse actors like Kidman (Moulin Rouge) and Roberts (August: Osage County) on screen together, elevate it’s importance.
Assigned to a terror watch unit in 2002, Jess (Roberts) and Ray (Ejiofor) have one of the most important jobs in the Los Angeles Bureau. They get a call about a dead girl in a dumpster outside the mosque they are surveilling, while unrelated to terrorism, the victim turns out to be Jess’s teenage daughter. Ray, outside his jurisdiction chases leads unable to get a convection against the suspect. Years pass, the terror alert fades and Ray is sent back to New York. 13 years of looking through mug shots, Ray believes he has rediscovered the suspect and presents the evidence to former office crush, now district attorney Claire (Kidman), in hopes of finding the killer and finally giving Jess some peace.
Not without surprises, Secret in Their Eyes isn’t an awards contender, but a compelling movie event for adults.
The editing of the film is curious, as half of the thriller is told in flashbacks. The viewer doesn’t get the reason for this until about two thirds of the way through when both the past and the present seem to hit their emotional highs at the same time. Secret in Their Eyes, while starring two Oscar winning actresses, is Ejiofor’s film and he is the lead character with the most screen time. He is impulsive, irrational and while his mistakes as an officer of the law go hand in hand with personality flaws, it’s often frustrating for the viewer. Why would he yell the suspects name before getting close enough to grab him you might ask? On the other hand, this often reckless agent, seems written in a way to allow the film to drag out with so many near misses and false victories.
“If you look at enough faces, you’re bound to find the one you’re looking for.” Ray’s script is certainly effective in keeping the audience on edge and in suspense, and by satisfying the basic needs of a thriller, it’s a success. For nearly an hour you wonder why someone like Kidman would be in a role that only seems to offer her as the ambitious blond offering concern and advice, then the scene that changes the film happens and you see Kidman at her best. Claire redefines the good/bad cop scenario during an interrogation which becomes the films’ most rewarding moment. You keep waiting for Roberts character to get her moment, and it becomes alarmingly evident she is here for both her star power and de-glam transformation. Not without surprises, Secret in Their Eyes isn’t an awards contender, but a compelling movie event for adults.
Despite its many flaws, still works as a compelling thriller with a couple of really strong performances.