Friday, November 20

REVIEW: Secret in Their Eyes

Directed by Billy Ray
2015 Mystery Thriller
1 hour 41 minutes
From STX Entertainment

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Nicole Kidman
Julia Roberts
Alfred Molina
Dean Morris
Joe Cole
Michael Kelly
Zoe Graham

It was based on a 2009 Argentinian film , El secreto de sus ojos, which won the Oscar for best foreign film.  I didn't see it but I did just get out of seeing its American remake and I promise you it will not win an Oscar.

One of the worst thing about it is the confusion that results from going back and forth from things that happened in 2002 and are happening today.  Looking at each new scene I was rarely certain
what was happening until something was said that gave it away.  Sometimes that took too long and I was hanging out there is some netherworld waiting for sense to arrive.  Not good.  This plot device is rarely done well and in this case there was not a great deal of reason to do it.

In 2002 there were two L.A.  FBI investigators, Ray (Ejiofor) and Jess (Roberts) who are also good pals.  They are investigating a murder and he is the first to see that the victim is her only child, a daughter who was raped before being brutally murdered.  They are not able to discover who the killer is.  He soon leaves the job for greener pastures in New York.

Thirteen years later he comes back for a visit, revealing that all this time he is obsessed with finding the killer.  He is pleased to reconnect with Jess and also with Claire (Kidman), once their mutual boss and still Jess'.  We quickly discover that Claire and Ray have enjoyed a flirtation over the years.

Things open up in the new investigation but Ray is thwarted at every level.  Jess and Claire and others are now involved in terrorist plots and surveillance and no one above them (Molina) wants them to divert from the more important work.  Soon even Jess seems to tire from the new investigation.  Claire wants to be supportive (and is once or twice) but she primarily seems to feel they are in dangerous territory.

They call this a mystery-thriller and if I told you anything further it wouldn't be much of a mystery.  I can freely add, however, that you super thriller buffs will be highly disappointed.  While for some the ending may come as a surprise but on the other hand I saw some of it coming.

While I am one who loves thrillers, I was not expecting much in this area and it's chiefly because of how the film was promoted.  I'd call it lackluster and that tells me that so is the rest of the film.  What I did go for was the cast.  I am a big fan of Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave and the TV miniseries, Dancing on the Edge).  While he does have the major role, I am surprised he is billed over his leading ladies.  Perhaps it's simply alphabetical.  I also had an interest in seeing two superstar actresses like Roberts and Kidman do a film together.  I was not disappointed in the acting, although I see no awards.

Kidman looked quite glamorous but Roberts has probably never been in a film where she was so decidedly unglam. Years of mourning took a toll.  And to think she was photographed by her husband, Danny Moder.  What a brave man.

This is just the third theatrical film for director Billy Ray.  His first two, Breach and Captain Phillips, were much better.  He is also co-writer and he also cowrote those two films along with some others like Hart's War, Shattered Glass, Flightplan and The Hunger Games.

It is not a horrible film by any means but I don't see that it lived up to its potential either.  If you like any of the cast in a big way, like I do, you may find some interest.  Otherwise, this should have some initial opening weekend curiosity and then will fade quickly.  It does seem curious that this, awkward, clumsy and puzzling as it is, would be released along with all the expected Oscar hopefuls  coming out in this time frame.

Next posting:
Another review (tomorrow)

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