Secret in Their Eyes
dir-scr Billy Ray
prd Matt Jackson, Mark Johnson
with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Dean Norris, Alfred Molina, Joe Cole, Michael Kelly, Zoe Graham, Patrick Davis, Eileen Fogarty, Lyndon Smith, Kim Yarbrough
release US 20.Nov.15, UK 4.Mar.16
15/US 1h51
Secret in Their Eyes
Triple whammy: Roberts, Kidman and Ejiofor

molina cole kelly
See also:
The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
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Secret in Their Eyes This loose remake of Argentina's slick 2009 Oscar-winner is less flashy than the original, which kind of mutes its sense of emotional urgency. But writer-director Billy Ray infuses the thriller with subtle intelligence and understated interconnections, which are expertly played by the cast. Although fans of more obvious filmmaking might find it too understated.

New York security expert Ray (Ejiofor) has been unable to shake a murder case 13 years ago when he was an FBI agent in Los Angeles. So when he spots the suspect (Cole) in a photo, he crosses the country to alert his former cohorts. Jess (Roberts) still works with the FBI, while Claire (Kidman) is now L.A.'s district attorney. Quietly reopening the case, they encounter the same reluctance from fellow agent Reg (Kelly). But nothing goes as expected, and Ray finds it further distracting to revisit his relationships with both Jess and Claire.

Writer-director Ray has re-jigged the plot, so fans of the original will be surprised at how it unfolds here. By setting the original crime alongside the counter-terrorism panic after the 9/11 attacks, the film becomes a quietly pointed comment on America's innate paranoia. While the present-day sequences touch more provocatively on hot potato issues like police corruption and government inaction. But Ray never pushes these ideas, leaving them almost subliminal in the background.

This delicate approach makes the film dry and dark, but there's plenty going on in the story and characters. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems, and the twisty plot lets the actors shine. Ejiofor anchors the film as a man tenaciously searching for justice, unsure if his conscience is up to what he might find. Kidman playfully suggests lingering feelings as she revisits a point in her life when she might have made the wrong choice. And Roberts is especially remarkable, stripped of all glamour as she reveals layers of wrenching inner turmoil.

In this film, the characters are far more important than the case. Sometimes the leaping back and forth between two periods can be difficult to follow (hint: watch the hair), but the robust plot offers constant surprises and emotional resonance. This is a rare thriller that appeals to the mind as much as the gut, taking time to build atmosphere rather than rush from one set-piece to the next. It may feel rather dull and underpowered, but there's so much texture in every scene that close attention definitely pays off.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 22.Nov.15

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