Post 9/11 and America is on high alert with all resources are invested into the war against terror. Deals are being made and sources are being kept safe at any cost for their information. Even when the source is the possible suspect of a murder, which just so happens to be the daughter of the Detective investigating the source himself.
And that is basically the premise for the American remake of the Argentinian 2009 film ‘Secret in Their Eyes’. An Argentinian film that won the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film of the year in 2010. Which is surprising as the opening weekend for the American version was rather poor, coming in at number 5 worldwide at the Box Office.
It’s 2002 and a fresh-faced team is investigating a mosque in New York with ties to a terrorist network when the country is of full alert post 9/11. Ray played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, has been brought in from LA to help investigate along side Jess played by Julia Roberts. But when they investigate a body found in a dumpster next to the mosque, they story takes a turn when the body is the daughter of Jess.
Eventually the killer is identified but it’s not long until the team has to let him go. Forced by the legalities of the new Attorney on the scene, Clair, played by Nicole Kidman.
The movie continues to weave in and out of a 13-year gap to 2015 where Ray finds the killer again and gets the old team back together to help Jess find peace and bring justice to the tragic murder. Or so it seams.
Relatively new-on-the-scene director Billy Ray – Breach, 2007, and Shattered Glass, 2003 – tries his hand at a fifth feature and disappoints.
He’s the man behind the screenplays for some hit films, more recently The Hunger Games. Though his biggest efforts to date would be Captain Phillips, which he was nominated for an Oscar for. He also wrote the screenplay for Secrets in Their Eyes. But that didn’t quite give him the vision he needed to do the original Argentinian film justice.
As the film swayed between the two different decades the viewer would be excused if they didn’t quite understand which year they were in. Sure there was the slightly greying hair on Ray and the majority of the rest of the male cast being bald. But there were points where the story itself felt confused what year it was.
If the changing between 2002 and 2015 wasn’t a hard enough story to tell, there was the confusing relationship between Ray and Claire (Kidman). It was obvious there was some sort of chemistry, but the story never went into any detail to explain what happened, if anything at all or why it didn’t happen. Walking away from the film you would almost fell it was an afterthought in post-production.
Billy Ray had his hands full with the all-star cast. The biggest let down was that of Julia Roberts whose performance was either that she wasn’t interested in or didn’t have enough direction to be able to bring the character to life. Robert’s character Jess opened with great promise, but post dead daughter, Robert’s struggled to find any motivation to convey how the character would be feeling, even at the big reveal.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, known for 12 Years a Slave, seemed to be a little lost in this role. His journey through the emotions from new kid on the block to his consumed obsession to find the killer was all but lost in blank looks and bland line delivery. It’s as if his direction from Billy Ray was to just deliver the lines and see what happens. But any good director would realise when nothing is happening.
It’s a tricky film to pinpoint where the problem started. For the most part it became confusing to know where it was and what it was the story was trying to tell you. At some points you forget that you are looking for a killer and it was more about the politics and quest to bring down any terrorist living in the USA.
The film also attempted to tell a story of the corruption within the Police Forces and what they were willing to do to protect someone who was leaking information to the police.
You were never introduced to the characters, there was never a strong connection built with them. Nor was there a strong connection built with the squad, which later came together to help each other out unofficially. This made is harder to connect with the storyline.
All in all the film never made the connection with the audience and never made the connection within itself to be something more. Instead of leaving its viewers with something compelling to think about the film just lets you move on to thinking about what’s for dinner tonight.
Review by Jay Cook