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24.11.2013
In 2015, Ray is back in Los Angeles to reopen the case, convinced he’s located the killer who went free the first time.
Going back and forth between present and past, we learn the identity of the victim, why several of the characters feel personal guilt for what happened and what went wrong with the first investigation.
Ejiofor is a terrific actor in any role (so far) and Roberts does an excellent job well out of her comfort zone as a woman who is practically a ghost in her own life. SECRET IN THEIR EYES boasts an ace supporting cast – Dean Norris, Alfred Molina, Joe Cole, Michael Kelly, Zoe Graham – and some promising clues at the outset. Writer-director Billy Ray knows he set forth a challenge for himself when deciding to remake the 2009 Argentine film The Secret in Their Eyes. For Ray, writer of Captain Phillips and The Hunger Games, this is a return to the director’s chair following 2007’s Breach. Back when Juan Jose Campanella’s The Secret in Their Eyes came out in 2010, I was greatly impressed — giving it the highest possible recommendation. Despite the changes made in Secret in Their Eyes — more has been altered than dropping the “The,” changing the location and shooting it in English — the new film brought the original back to mind in all its structural cleverness.
Without giving away too much about the plot, I can say that the story works in two time periods taking place 13 years apart. To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Subscribe to the Xpress Newsletter and get all the week's print stories delivered to your inbox!
Back in 2002, FBI Agent Ray Kasten is on loan to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s counter-terrorism task force. This is a matter of great consequence to Ray’s former colleague Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts) and to Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman), who had just been appointed Deputy District Attorney when Ray first came aboard back in 2002.
However, one of the big plot points is supposed to be unfulfilled longing between Ray and Claire, and Ejiofor and Kidman strike no sparks at all. For understandable reasons, it quickly becomes a secondary matter to Jess and Ray and possibly even Claire.
While this was a story that captivated Ray, he did make some adjustments in adapting the film from its Argentine predecessor. The Lowdown: Intelligent, and largely effective, Americanized remake of the 2010 Argentinian thriller.


It also reminded me just where all this was leading, and, once I knew, my involvement with it all lessened by the minute.
That aspect of the movie doesn’t really go anywhere beyond the purely functional, since this is a character-study mystery, not a political film in the strict sense. Her friend and co-worker, played by Ejiofor, continues digging every day for 13 years until he uncovers a new lead.
A lot of key plot points are the same, but whether it’s due to cultural differences or the specific presentation here, the secret lacks impact. All of their lives were upended by the crime and its original investigation, and now Ray’s insistence on pursuing the killer threatens to do even more damage.
Indeed, it takes some dialogue rather late in the running time to establish that Ray is supposed to be responding to signals of interest, rather than running on strictly wishful thinking. Still, SECRET handles the investigation’s resolution as such an afterthought that we realize, in plot construction terms, it could have been any sort of major case. Ray’s version, Secret in Their Eyes, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, and Nicole Kidman as the FBI investigators and District Attorney supervisor, respectively, who are divided when a girl is murdered. Great performances and a respect for the original mostly carry the day, but the plot-driven nature of the story is apt to disappoint viewers who already know where it’s all leading. While I could appreciate the same cleverness inherent in the original, I wasn’t really invested in the plot.
It moves back and forth between an old murder case and a present-day attempt to bring the killer to justice. Years later, Ejiofor’s character finds a new lead. “When I sat down to write the movie, I thought I was writing a movie about loss. Nor could I remember much about the film, making me suspect that I had very likely overrated it.
But — and I cannot stress this enough — Secret in Their Eyes is by no means a bad movie, and I strongly suspect that anyone who doesn’t know the story will find much to like. In the new film, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Ray, a former FBI agent who can’t let go of the 2002 case that changed his life and the lives of the two other main characters, L.A. What makes Secret in Their Eyes work lies in carefully recreating key high points from the original — the stadium sequence, the elevator encounter, the plot twist, etc.
This is something that most often happens with movies that are largely plot-driven — once the story is told, there’s just not much left.


Even while waiting for things to happen — as opposed to waiting to see what would happen — I liked the film and found a good bit to admire. District Attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman) and his former police partner Jess (Julia Roberts).
I had much the same experience with Guillaume Canet’s 2008 thriller Tell No One and Claude LeLouch’s Roman de Gare (also 2008). That murder took place when he was working a Homeland Security detail in conjunction with the LAPD and he and Jess were called in because it took place near a Mosque. Some movies — no matter how well-made or how entertaining — simply don’t have much replay value.
Although Ray identified the killer (Joe Cole) fairly quickly, the evidence wasn’t there to hold the man — in part because he was a police informant inside the Mosque — and he disappeared. Kidman is also very fine as the slightly enigmatic Claire, who tries to balance her feelings with her position in the world.
Seeing Billy Ray’s Americanized remake of Campanella’s film brought this home with a vengeance.
Thinking he’s spotted the killer in the police files, Ray (now a private investigator) returns to L.A. Then there’s the utterly de-glammed Roberts going from wisecracking cop to the shell of a woman over the course of the proceedings.
Her performance is flawless, but the film errs somewhat in the total glamming down of the actress. It’s not wrong-headed — it makes perfect sense when the full story is known — but it is distracting in its extreme nature. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing violent content, language and some sexual references.



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