21 November 2015 | jadepietro
(Rating: ☆☆ out of 4)
This film is not recommended.
In brief: The real crime is remaking this remake.
Hollywood rarely improves upon a remake, especially in the foreign film genre. Such is the case, once again, in Secret in Their Eyes. Based on its far better source, the 2010 Oscar- winning Argentine film bearing the same name, this version unduly complicates an already complicated plot with political corruption and a terrorist back-story that does little to enhance the story. Whereas, both films intermesh the crime tale with a love story between its two central characters, the American reboot fails to successfully engage its audience with the latter storyline.
￼Written and directed by Billy Ray, this film tells the story of an unsolved murder that has haunted its characters for over a decade. The filmmaker takes the essence of the earlier film and unlike that film, raises the stakes by wisely personalizes the murder this time around. Ray Caston and Jess Cobb are two FBI agents who arrive at the crime scene, only to discover that the victim is Jess's daughter, Carolyn. Her death haunts both agents over the years, including the acting DA, Claire, who happens to be Ray's unrequited love. Throughout the past 13 years, Ray continues to hunt for Carolyn's killer and believes he has finally found the culprit. He wants the case reopened and to also reopen his relationship with his object of affection as well.
￼An interesting premise, but the crime story never builds to much excitement and the love story seems to go nowhere. A capable cast has been assembled with Chiwetel Ejiofor as the brooding detective assigned to the case. Even though the actor tries valiantly to add some depth to his weakly-drawn character, he still comes across as an unhinged vigilante rather than heroic cop. This character never seems realistic or believable as written, nor do any of the characters in this version. A miscast Nicole Kidman plays Claire as an ice princess type and has zero chemistry with Mr. Ejiofor. In fact, the only reason to see this remake is the powerful acting done by Julia Roberts as the grieving mother. The actress downplays her beauty and gives a remarkably nuanced performance that deserves Oscar consideration.
￼As for the film itself, the script is muddled and the flashback format's choppiness doesn't help matters. One can only tell past versus present events by the hair and make-up aging process (or lack there of with Ms. Roberts). Some of the supporting characters (an unethical officer, the overly ambitious politician, the trusty sidekick, etc.) become stereotypes and the dialog is standard TV crime drama.
Secret in Their Eyes is a crime thriller without much thrills. The murder mystery just does not blend with the love story and the moviegoer becomes its final victim. Rent the Argentine film instead to see how to skillfully combine both genres.
￼NOTE: In my original review (June 3, 2010, go to archives in this blog to read it, if interested), I bemoan the fact back then that remakes are a less quality. Somethings just don't improve with age.
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