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Friday, 22 December 2017

Movie Review: Secret In Their Eyes (2015)

Secret In Their Eyes
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly, Joe Cole, Alfred Molina
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $32 million 

Plot: A tight-knit team of rising investigators, along with their supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their teenage daughters has been brutally murdered

'But For Julia Roberts's Great Performance, This Secret Is Lacking In Tension & Is Too Melodramatic'

The U.S remake of Secret In Their Eyes - minus 'The' in the title - received less than favourable reviews when it was released back in 2015. Based on the 2010 Argentinian movie, The Secret In The Eyes (that film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film), it is virtually the same film as the original, only it is the woman grieving her dead child, instead of a man. It also shifts the set-up of the movie to the aftermath of the 2001 September 11 attacks. A movie that has high ambitions, but sadly it lacks strength in areas and a deeply engrossing story that keeps the audience glued throughout. It is also a Julia Roberts movie from her illustrious career that I overlooked & one where I wanted to give it a chance, having read the plot and that on paper I felt the main casting looked impressive. 

FBI agent Jess Cobb works on an anti-terrorist case with a fellow cop, Ray and district attorney, Claire. When they discover the body of Jess's daughter at a mosque, they find out they can't arrest him as it would jeopardise their anti-terrorism operation. 13 years later, Claire, Ray and Jess band together, once again to reopen the case & to help nail the killer.

Secret In Their Eyes does feel like a crime thriller that has been done hundred times over and the plot is nothing that new or original. 

The ace in the pack is Julia Roberts in her second psychological thriller offering since 1991's Sleeping With The Enemy, who many will cite as being miscast. Which has been the case in some of her other movies, but this is one film where I can give her the benefit of the doubt that she is playing against type. & does it exceedingly well. This role is so unlike any other she has taken on previously in her movie career, & Roberts steps up to the plate & impresses. Unlike Sleeping With The Enemy's Laura, Jess is far more formidable and though just like Laura, she too is a victim, Jess, unlike Laura, however, doesn't mess about & sees to it that justice is indeed served. An actress who isn't known for 'tougher' character turns, nor is she called upon to do anything she hasn't done before, Roberts is very believable as Jess and the long-time America's Sweetheart shows that despite her typecast character roles in rom-coms, she is willing to go outside of her comfort zone and take up more challenging roles that no one expects her to pull off. In Secret In Their Eyes, stripped away her make-up, Roberts's Jess looks both vulnerable and a character who doesn't give up in finding justice in avenging her daughter's murder. With her tired looking eyes, that shimmering smile erased by grief and insufferable loss, it's almost as though that some may see Julia Roberts's de-glamourisation as an award-bait move on her and the director's part. Yet it is not. Her turn here is emotive, complex and authentic that doesn't come across as phoney and it gives Roberts the opportunity to once again act and to show that she can play the cop role well.  

The performances are, on the whole, good to very impressive with Julia Roberts on top form and I wished she had more scenes and dialogue as she was underutilized. Unfortunately, with regards to the story, it is slow-paced & it lacks any sort of tension or intensity to make it more enthralling and to really give something more for the actors to work with. It's just far too melodramatic to make the movie more worthwhile and is not that compelling. I think the casting of Ejiofor, Roberts and Kidman is terrific and they do their utmost best to give the film some quality. But they deserved a much more imaginative and less droning screenplay that further utilises their talents. There is too much of Ray indulging in talking the talk, but not walking the walk with regards to getting down and working hard. Kidman's DA character spends too much time pouting and give loving looks to Ejiofor. When Ray doesn't linger at Claire, he's not bad and yet Ejiofor and Kidman just can't generate enough chemistry as a romantic pairing. 

One so-called chase scene takes place at the L.A Dodgers stadium with Ejiofor's Ray chasing after one of the suspects. 

Director Billy Ray's mistake is not to infuse the film with style, substance and thrills; instead, it feels way too much like an episode of CSI/Law & Order. But the charm of the star leads does help in amplifying it.


Pros +

- Julia Roberts's against-type performance was great

- Great line-up on paper

Cons -

- Too melodramatic

- Lacks excitement and the story is not that engrossing

- Mostly uninspired 

Final Verdict:

Fans of the original may or will be disappointed and will see to it this remake is redundant and unnecessary, whereas those who haven't seen the original film, especially fans of Julia Roberts, who haven't come across this one before, may and will enjoy it as a modern slice of crime noir. 

At best this is a moderate showing, but given the cast, they deserved better and the film should have had more going for it for a crime thriller. Instead, it is uninspired and though it doesn't try anything new, it isn't that exciting and palpable enough, either. 

I wouldn't say this retelling was unnecessary and not needed, I welcome having a U.S version of the movie. The performances from the main three save Secret In Their Eyes for me and for anyone who wants to watch a less than typical Julia Roberts performance in an against-type role, & one that gains an extra half a mark from me, this film is most certainly it. 


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