Review: Secret In Their Eyes Has Good Performances But Is Mediocre Overall
Title: Secret in their Eyes
Director: Billy Ray
Screenwriter: Billy Ray (screenplay), Juan José Campanella (film “El secreto de sus ojos”), and Eduardo Sacheri (film “El secreto de sus ojos”)
Principal Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, and Alfred Molina
Summary: A tight-knit team of rising investigators, along with their supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered.
I did not know that Secret in their Eyes was a remake of an Argentinian film until I walked into the screening. These days the word “remake” seems to get thrown around more than new and original intellectual properties, so I was a little sad to find out that this was yet another remake of a foreign film. I haven’t seen the original but I’ve been told that it was very good. The cast of Secret in their Eyes had me a little interested, aside from Julia Roberts who I find insufferable. However, I don’t mind heavy movies and I even enjoy them more than I dislike them.
Secret in their Eyes might have a few good performance and an interesting way of telling its story, but it never manages to rise above just being okay.
I feel like this is a movie that was trying to get someone nominated for an award or two because it just seems to scream that. The story is told over thirteen years but in a nonlinear kind of way. We skip between the present day with Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he tries to open the murder of fellow FBI agent Jess’ (Julia Roberts) daughter and thirteen years in the past when the murder first happened. We also have district attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman) who is in a weird position where she isn’t quite sure whether it’s a good idea to open the case again since the last time the suspect got away it nearly killed Jess. The nonlinear way of telling the story is interesting, but since there is only a thirteen year difference and no one is trying to age anyone up in any real noticeable way I sometimes had trouble keeping track whether we were in the past or in the present. The real indicator for me became the style of Kidman’s hair and how long it was but sometimes it wasn’t enough.
The story itself is a pretty standard murder plot until the final twist that pushes a dark movie into pitch black. The twist is a surprise at first but the secondary twist that comes afterwards is telegraphed fairly obviously. It’s fairly effective and the cast seems to really go for it. While Roberts seems to be getting most of the attention when it comes to marketing she is actually in the movie a lot less than I thought she would be. The main character really seems to be Ejiofor and he’s such a great actor. He plays off of Kidman very well and they have great chemistry. I enjoyed watching them up on screen together. While I’m not a fan of Roberts she does do a very good job of playing a woman whose entire world suddenly gets ripped away. The performances here are the things that are going to get people into the theaters.
However, everything else isn’t up to par with the performances. Director Billy Ray, who also shares partial writing credits with Juan José Campanella and Eduardo Sacheri, has done much better than this before. He worked on the screenplays for the great Captain Phillips and the really good Source Code, so it’s a little odd to see that this script is really kind of weak. The direction is also not that great, like I said I sometimes had a hard time figuring out if this was the present or the future, but also the pacing felt a little off. The movie isn’t insanely long, an hour and fifty one minutes, but it felt longer than it was by the end.
Secret in their Eyes feels like it was trying to remake an Oscar winning foreign film to try and get more awards, but it’s not good enough to even make the radar of the awards. In an award season that features such films as Room, Spotlight and even The Martian, Secret in their Eyes isn’t going to register for anyone and is quickly going to be lost in the busy movie season.