February 16, 2016


Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly, Joe Cole, Alfred Molina. Directed by Billy Ray. (2015, 112 min).

A remake of the Oscar-winning 2009 Argentine film, Secret in Their Eyes features a great cast, all who bring their A-game to the proceedings. Billy Ray, primarily a screenwriter known for such films as Flightplan, The Hunger Games and Captain Phillips, returns to the director's chair for the first time since 2007's Breach, which was an outstanding (and overlooked) political thriller. In my humble estimation, this one couldn't miss.

Yet somehow, it does miss. Secret in Their Eyes isn't a bad film. The basic story structure of the original sort-of remains, that of a man obsessed with catching a rapist/murderer who got away with his crime years before, with the same surprising revelation at the end. And you couldn't ask for a better cast, where you'll see Julia Roberts at her least-glamorous. The dialogue is smart and the music score by Frederico Jusid & Emilio Kauderer is suitably haunting (though occasionally derivative of the "Prophecy Theme" from Dune).

Julia learns there's no Easter Bunny.

But in updating everything for American audiences, including a wholly unnecessary romantic subplot between two main characters, a lot gets lost in the translation. It's obvious Billy Ray has tremendous respect for the original film. At the same time, this feels more like a checklist of key plot points than a truly creative reinterpretation, almost as though it exists entirely for the big reveal at the end.

Secret in Their Eyes is mildly interesting and you probably won't regret checking it out. But in the end, the original story has been simply rendered into just another standard thriller, something I did not expect considering the talent on both sides of the camera. Sure, the final denouement still works on a visceral level, but we have to sit through a lot of familiar claptrap to get to it.


  • Featurettes: "Adapting the Story to Today's World"; "Julia Roberts Discusses Here Most Challenging Role"
  • Commentary by Writer/Director Billy Ray and Producer Mark Johnson
  • DVD & Digital Copies


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