Like most of the movies I manage to see early screenings of, when I showed up to the screening for Secret In Their Eyes at the start of the month, I was made to fill out an embargo form. The embargo banned us from publishing our reviews until a particular date and time. This date was November 19 at midnight, which is the release date for the movie. When you walk into a screening and find out you can't talk about the movie until the day it comes out, it does raise a few concerns. Perhaps the movie I'm about to witness isn't as good as I hoped it would be. Or perhaps I'm about to witness a masterpiece and they don't want the film's secrets to be revealed until after it's released to the public. Well, in this case, I can assure you it's not the second one.
Secret In Their Eyes is a remake of the 2009 foreign film, El secreto de sus ojos, which translates to Secret In Their Eyes.... obviously. The film intercuts between two timelines, both revolving around an investigator named Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first takes place thirteen years ago and finds Ray attempting to hunt down the guy responsible for sexually harassing and murdering Carolyn (Zoe Graham), the daughter of fellow investigator, Jess (Julia Roberts). The second story takes place in the modern day and, again, revolves around Ray. He's been investigating the case for 13 years, looking at the faces of every caucasian male he can find, and he thinks, after all these years, that he may just have found the murderer after all.
Not having seen the original film, I was hoping for the best when it came to this film's plot. The trailer advertised it as a dark and twisted revenge story, focussing in on Jess' search for vengeance. The film is something else entirely. It's a run of the mill thriller, full of red herrings, interrogations and clichés. It's an investigator doing what he does best.... investigating. That's all there is to it. There's times where this film attempts to show these characters pushing the boundaries of the law, but the worst thing that really happens is Chiwetel Ejiofor stealing a suspect's comic book.
Unlike its promotional material, it's a film very light on action. It's a dialogue-filled slop, dragging its feet ever-so-slowly behind. It's a film that thinks it's one step ahead of you, when in actual fact you're four steps in front. All of the twists in this movie? Yeah, I saw them all coming. Nothing comes as that big of a surprise, making the build up to these twists just twice as uninteresting. In terms of plot, nothing exciting ever happens. The mystery is generic and the characters are two dimensional, the only exception being Julia Roberts, but even then, her character does things in this movie that felt very out of place.
The performances themselves, however, are truly wonderful. Julia Roberts puts her serious face on in a role that requires anger and emotion. You can tell that she is a broken character and when her daughter dies early on in the movie, it hits you. It hits you hard. While that's the only time I felt emotionally invested in this film, the scene itself is well done, Roberts giving it her a-game. As for Chiwetel Ejiofor, every time I see him in a movie, I just appreciate his acting talent more and more. His performance here is neither his best, nor his worst, but it's certainly decent. He's just not given much to work with.
Another notable addition to the cast is Nicole Kidman, and she just looks bored. Again, it's not her worst, but it's not great. Her character is generic, never getting a lot to do, and the result of that is a performance that doesn't live up to her acting capabilities. She's so much better than this. There was no need for her to do a film as formulaic and lifeless as this one, but that's the thing. This is just a lifeless movie. The direction is stale, everything looking so drab and brown. There's no energy. It just drains the life out of you, and not in a good way.
Once we do reach the film's finale, the twist we're given isn't a very good one. The whole time, I kept coming back to this prediction I had about the film's ending, and I really didn't want it to go down that path. I really didn't want it to be the twist I had a strong suspicion it would be. Unfortunately, everything was falling into place just as I had suspected. It goes down paths you can see coming a mile away and the twist fails to make any significant impact. It just happens, I rolled my eyes and the film cut to black one final time. When the film ended, I was delighted to leave the cinema.
To sum up, Secret In Their Eyes brings together a lot of talent for a film that wastes every single one of them. It's dull, lifeless and generic, the characters two dimensional and the plot predictable. It's an uninteresting film that lacks its much needed emotional connection.