Secret In Their Eyes: Film Review
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Eijofor, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Alfred Molina
Director: Billy Ray
Back in 2009, an Argentinian film surprised the world when it took home the Oscar beating out the favourites.
At the time, The Secret In Their Eyes was hardly well known, but it began to garner a reputation as a drama that was explosive and emotionally involving.
Sadly, the remake is unfortunately a reasonable, rather than gripping, drama.
Set against the backdrop of a post 9/11 world (making for an odd experience as prism viewing in the week of events of Paris), the narrative flips back and forth between 2002 and present day as a Eijofor's Ray investigates a murder.
13 years after the crime was never solved, Ray turns up with a new lead having devoted over a decade of his life post the case trying to get answers. Despite the protestations of DA Claire (Kidman) and because it's contra to the counter-terrorism team he worked on in 2002, Ray believes this is the lead they've been missing and could now solve the case in 2015....
To say more about Secret In Their Eyes is to dip your toes in spoiler territory and to those unfamiliar with the original Argentinian flick, the key part of the film is the unfurling like a narrative onion of the layers of the plot.
Slow, drawn-out and to a degree, dawdling, Secret In Their Eyes is never as engaging as perhaps it should be. Not exactly a crime thriller, this is a movie about regrets, politics, the passage of time and the horrific bonds between Ray, Claire and Juliet Roberts' detective Jess.
Against a continual backdrop of 9/11 imagery and potential overkill of the fact the terrorists are really bad people, the film's inability to escape from its inevitability hampers it. Flashbacks are fine, but the reveal early on of how that investigation plays out causes narrative impotence, garnering the film with a laissez-faire sheen that audiences won't fully invest in.
It's not helped by a lack of chemistry between Eijofor's Ray and Kidman's Claire. We're supposed to believe the duo shared a spark that was left unexplored and burned bright for 13 years but scenes with the duo don't garner the fizz or hints of a fizz that would have helped propel any potential powderkeg along.
It's a shame because Eijofor chiefly delivers some great dramatic moments; his reaction on the discovery of the body simmers with tragedy and horror; equally Roberts' grieving mum is as restrained a turn as she's ever given - but she's not on screen for as much as is required during the melancholy maudlin movie. Kidman and Molina stand out for the wrong reasons and while Breaking Bad star Dean Norris adds a degree of humanity to the film, there's simply not enough to help you through the darkness.
Ray's direction is workmanlike with no real moments standing out - but this is a thriller that rarely thrills as it should and whose emotional candles burn on mute.
Ultimately, when the end comes, it feels more of a deflation than an elation of shock; where Secret In Their Eyes should have raged, it merely blows pathetically in the wind when compared to the original's power and ability to shock.