“Secret in Their Eyes” is an American remake of an Argentine film which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film back in 2010. It was directed by Billy Ray who has writer credits on films such as “The Hunger Games” and “Captain Phillips”, and stars talented actors such as Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”) and Nicole Kidman (“Eyes Wide Shut”).
These ingredients might sound like they belong in a recipe for success but unfortunately this film does not live up to the original in any way whatsoever. The first warning sign that something might be array with this remake is that the name is “Secret in Their Eyes” rather than “The Secret in Their Eyes”, because on title alone it immediately strikes the audience as a knock-off rather than an adaptation. There’s a pretty simple explanation for this grammatical error which is that the crucial first word was omitted to differentiate this movie from the original, but why you would make your title sound stupid for the sake of separating yourself from the film that you’re trying to essentially copy is beyond me. I assume that there was some sort of legal reasoning behind the decision, but even this seems ridiculous because this movie is telling the exact same story as the film that it’s adapting.
Of course, the real differentiating factor between the films is the contrast in quality between them. “Secret in Their Eyes” is more likely to win a Razzie than an Oscar; boasting over-the-top performances, uninspired direction, and tepid cinematography.
As you would expect from a remake of an Oscar winning film the story isn’t actually all that bad. On paper the plot of “Secret in Their Eyes” might read a little bit like the narrative of a made-for-TV movie – ‘a jaded investigator comes home to solve the case that has haunted him for thirteen years’ – but in reality there’s a lot going on and you can believe that Juan Jose Campanella created an award winning movie using the same story. This film’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t know how to tell its story in an original or coherent way, merely hinting at relationships and backstories which were crucial to the overarching narrative.
Leading man Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Ray, a former FBI counter-terrorism investigator looking to catch the one that got away. Ray enlists the help of an old flame, Claire (played by Nicole Kidman), who has moved up the ranks in the thirteen years since the murder took place and now has the power to pull the strings necessary to get some answers. The film flirts with the idea that these two characters have been/still are in love, yet they never become intimate or even kiss on screen. Ejiofor and Kidman are both very capable actors but they have absolutely no chemistry and it feels as though they’re just going through the motions waiting for their scenes to end.
The victim in the case that Ray is trying to close was the daughter of his co-worker and best friend, Jess (played by Julia Roberts), which should add an extra layer to his character and bring some emotion to the piece, but you never get the sense that there’s genuine affection between the pair. Roberts plays Jess quite convincingly, seeming numb and tired after years of pain, but she isn’t angry enough with Ray to make you feel that there was a meaningful relationship there in the past and she isn’t comfortable enough around him to make you believe that they’ll be close again in the future.
Every single performance in “Secret in Their Eyes” is excruciatingly bad and this is all the more frustrating when the people giving the performances are extremely talented. Julia Roberts does try her best to inject the film with some passion, and she is believable as a mother struggling to cope following the loss of her daughter, but she’s also guilty of some of the craziest overacting you’ll see all year. I like all of these actors but what they’re doing in this film is anyone’s guess.
Nothing about “Secret in Their Eyes” is good; the writing is poor, the cinematography is uninspired, and the direction is confused. The script is atrocious, the lighting and the framing lack in creativity, and every aspect of the film is permeated with the same feeling of carelessness.
All in all, “Secret in Their Eyes” isn’t worth watching; it’s just boring, lacklustre trash.