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New Release Review - SECRET IN THEIR EYES

A retired cop reopens the investigation into the murder of his partner's daughter.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Billy Ray

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Alfred Molina



That a key sequence takes place at the stadium of the LA Dodgers - a club that infamously uprooted itself from Brooklyn in 1957 in what most fans saw as a soulless, money-making move - is particularly fitting for a remake inspired by purely financial motivations.



Back in 2009, Juan Jose Campanella's Argentine thriller The Secret in Their Eyes scooped the Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar, and it was only a matter of time before a Hollywood remake would surface. Re-written and directed by Billy Ray, Secret in Their Eyes drops the definitive article, along with most of the elements that made Campanella's version work.
Where the original featured flashbacks to Argentina's time under the rule of the military junta in the '70s, Ray sets his reboot in 2002 Los Angeles, in the aftermath of 9/11. Detective Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is assigned to a counter terrorism unit conducting surveillance of a mosque thought to be visited by members of a sleeper cell. One morning Ray and his partner Jess (Julia Roberts) are called to a car park adjacent to the mosque where a young girl's body has been dumped. Turns out the body is that of Jess's teenage daughter.
13 years later, Ray, now working for a New York security firm, returns to Los Angeles. Having spent every night of the past 13 years scouring through criminal records, Ray believes he has discovered the killer, and asks Assistant DA Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman) to reopen the case.
Often in jarring fashion, with little beyond hairstyle changes to distinguish the time periods, the movie cuts back and forth between Ray's 2015 re-investigation, and the one conducted in 2002. Post 9/11 Los Angeles is portrayed as a city where armed soldiers protect every street, something I certainly didn't see during my time spent there in 2002. The idea of a murder investigation scuppered by a counter terrorism unit in order to potentially save multiple lives is an interesting one, but it's never really explored in much depth here. Instead, too much time is devoted to the 'will they/won't they?' relationship between Ray and Claire (here's a hint: Ray is black, Claire is white, and this is a mainstream American movie), who share no palpable charisma to suggest they should hook up.
The centrepiece of Campanella's original film was an unforgettable 'one shot' set-piece at a football stadium (based on the novel idea that a murderer might change his identity but not his football team), but Ray's version cops out and presents the same sequence in bland TV fashion. That the sequence takes place at the stadium of the LA Dodgers - a club that infamously uprooted itself from Brooklyn in 1957 in what most fans saw as a soulless, money-making move - is particularly fitting for a remake inspired by purely financial motivations.
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