Based on the 2009 Argentine thriller, El Secreto De Sus Ojos; Secret In Their Eyes sees the original Oscar-winning drama get an American remake, complete with an A-List cast. As is often the case, this Americanised version struggles to justify its existence past appealing to those who may lack the patience or appreciation for foreign language film.
There are a few minor changes to the plot and characters here, the most notable of which is an added sense of post-9/11 paranoia, but the story otherwise remains the same. Like the original, it has a narrative which cleverly jumps from past to present as a group of counter-terrorism agents are torn apart after the rape and murder of a team member’s daughter. Not only do we see the original investigation into the death, but we see the effect it has on the characters thirteen-years later as a new lead causes the case to be re-opened.
Writer and director, Billy Ray – the writer of the much more accomplished Captain Phillips – manages to create an impressive impression of the original film. Despite playing things a little safe – the brutal rape scene of the first film is absent here – it still has what could be best described as a ‘European-edge’ to it; the visuals have the same palette of a Nordic Noir, there’s a palpable sense of unease throughout and the film is more about the internal than the external.
The biggest thing that the film has going for it are the three central leads; Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts. Ejiofor continues to prove he’s one of the best actors working today, making the most of a fairly stereotypical detective role, but it is undoubtedly Julia Roberts who steals the show.
Playing the mother of the murder victim, a makeup-less Roberts does a fantastic job of playing a broken and distraught parent in mourning through an almost skeletal physicality and bubbling instensity. Yet, considering she is quite easily the most interesting character of the piece, she is sorely underused.
In spite of the great cast, however, Secret In Their Eyes is nothing more than a perfectly serviceable, middle-of-the-road thriller. It has its moments of tension and will go down well on a Sunday evening after the children have been put to bed, but chances are that by Monday morning you would have all but forgotten it. It’s solidly made, but for anybody who has seen the original especially, this is nothing more than a by-the-numbers and unsurprising little drama.