SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015)
A tight-knit team of rising FBI investigators - Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts), along with their District Attorney supervisor Claire (Nicole Kidman) - is suddenly torn apart when they discover that Jess's teenage daughter has been brutally and inexplicably murdered.
Review by Louise Keller:
The full impact of this chilling thriller descends like a shroud in the final climactic reel, when the fractured pieces of the puzzle finally form a coherent picture. Based on Juan Jose Campanella's excellent 2009 Spanish language film of the same name, Billy Ray's story about obsession, passion and justice is buoyed by three superb performances and a tense undercurrent that never lets up. The best part of the film is that we have no idea where it is going to lead.
There is a beguiling intensity about Chiwetel Ejiofor's Ray, a man whose decency shines through, as he obsessively tries to find a man who committed a horrific crime thirteen years earlier. As he returns to LA and re-opens Pandora's Box, the questions begin: What is his relationship with Claire (Nicole Kidman), the icy District Attorney whose ambition has taken her exactly where she wanted? And what of Jess (Julia Roberts), his former FBI partner, whose daughter was brutally raped and murdered? Passion is a roadmap; passion always wins, she says. As the action leapfrogs between two time frames, we slowly begin to understand the dynamics between the characters and how things played out all those years ago.
The backstory takes place in 2002 when Ray, Jess and Claire are part of a counter terrorism team post 9/11. Grief is not an easy emotion to watch and the devastation depicted by a mother who has lost her child is powerful indeed. It's a potent scene and both Ejiofor and Roberts are magnificent. Raw emotions are exposed in tight closeup; Roberts' distraught face, unforgettable. (Roberts' cinematographer husband, Daniel Moder shot the film.) Kidman is a terrific contrast - physically and emotionally, with never a hair out of place, or emotion unchecked.
What is the relevance of the title and to whose eyes is it referring? A photo of an office picnic; a man obsessed with comic books; a woman who does not believe in capital punishment. Is justice best pursued through legal channels or is it best served by creeping under the radar? What of Marzin (Joe Cole), the man who likes horses as much as he likes stealing cars? The hunt to right the wrong begins, but the film is about much more than the hunt itself. It's about dealing with relationships through all their ordeals as the past, the present and the future joust to find their comfortable position. dealing with the past, the present and future as well as the battered relationships that have left the everyday road: devastated, failed, compromised, unfulfilled.
While the original film (adapted from Eduardo Sacheri' novel) relies on the male character's journey (as played by Ricardo Darin), the strength of director Ray's casting of Roberts and Kidman somewhat changes the dynamic. As a consequence, the film's emotional tenure is triangular. Pay close attention: there are clues all along, although nothing will prepare you for the chilling reveal.
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SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015) (M)
CAST: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman
PRODUCER: Matt Jackson, Mark Johnson
DIRECTOR: Billy Ray
SCRIPT: Billy Ray [based on film El secreto de sus ojos by Juan Josˇ Campanella, Eduardo Sacheri]
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Daniel Moder
EDITOR: Jim Page
MUSIC: Emilio Kauderer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nelson Coates
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 19, 2015