Does anybody in law enforcement love, or trust one another?
13 years ago, Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was an FBI agent who had to work a very tough case. His partner at the time, Jess (Julia Roberts), had a daughter that went missing and wound-up dead. Automatically, everyone and their mothers started looking for suspects and while Ray knew he had the guy, locked and loaded, for some reason, said suspect was freed. The reasons behind this are a bit shady, but it left Ray, as well as his partner, and a confidante/possible flame of his, Claire (Nicole Kidman), in some tough situations. Now, in the present day, Ray believes he knows where this suspect is, what he does and just how he can get him back into the slammer, where he’ll hopefully live out the rest of his days in a jail cell. However, because Ray isn’t a cop anymore, he has to go through some legal hoops and curves to ensure that he’s not only doing everything by-the-books as humanly possible, but also to keep this suspect in jail and for good this time. Searching for this suspect also allows for Ray to get back in touch with former confidantes of his and remind himself of what it was that he left all those years ago.
Despite the original, 2009 Argentinian film having won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film all those years, for some reason, I just never got around to seeing it. Though I knew an English-language, big, bright and shiny, American remake is in the works and was more than likely going to tarnish the legacy of the original, I still couldn’t sit myself down in front of a screen and actually watch the movie. Call it bad timing, call it me being lazy, call it what you will – sometimes, stuff just happens.
But regardless of all that nonsense, having now seen the English-language, big, bright and shiny American remake, I’ve still got that feeling of not only wanting to watch the original, but also see how good it actually was to win the Oscar all those years ago.
See, for one, Secret in Their Eyes isn’t an awards-caliber movie; despite there being a nice amount of solid performances from just about everybody on-board here, the movie never once seems like it’s trying to reach for that infamous gold statue once. And in a way, there’s something refreshing about that, especially in a time like now, where it seems like each and every film was created for the sole purpose of being remembered and touted during the early winter of next year. Sometimes, it’s best to just have a solid, well-acted, and relatively fine crime-thriller and leave it at that.
And that’s exactly what Secret in Their Eyes is. It’s not setting out to light the movie world on fire, nor is it trying to have you remember by the year’s end and everybody’s trying to remember their favorite movies of the past year; it’s just trying to tell its story, give you a jump or two, make you think, and have you go home, feeling as if you spent a solid time at the movie. Though there is definitely a feeling that, considering the talented cast and crew involved, there could have been a bit more added to the proceedings, there’s also the feeling that it’s also not a remake made for purely cynical purposes.
That Secret in Their Eyes is targeted towards a much more mature, older audience, already sets it apart from most movies out there playing right now.
What’s interesting about the film is that we actually get a sense of who these characters are, amidst all of the troubles and turmoils this case may be bringing. Though it is a tad difficult to figure out which year we’re in (Ejiofor’s beard’s color is usually the clue), we still get a sense, through the relationships and personalities these characters have, of who they were both before, as well as after this horrendous murder. The movie doesn’t try to dig too deep, but because these actors are so good at what they do, they’re given that extra push that probably wouldn’t have happened, had some lesser-actors been cast.
Of course I’m not going to name any names, but you get the picture.
And of course, with the story, there’s a lot going on that can, in some ways, be interesting, and sometimes, not so much. There’s a chase-sequence that happens in and around Dodgers stadium that is absolutely breath-taking and exciting to watch. There’s also, now that I think about it, a very neat interrogating scene both Ejiofor’s and Kidman’s characters that have them stretching out the whole “good cop/bad cop” cliche and doing something intriguing with it. And while I’m at it, there’s a few other scenes that are pretty cool to watch, but really, that’s about it.
Which is to say that a solid hour or so of this movie is really solid – problem is, it hits nearly two hours. That means there’s another hour of this movie that’s not quite up-to-par as the other half. Therefore, while watching the flick, I couldn’t help but tune-out. The mystery at the center, although a bit simple and obvious from the very start, doesn’t take as many times as you’d expect it to, all up about until the final act and there’s two twists that seemed a little silly for a movie like this that was, already, way too serious and stern with itself. Granted, had there been a third twist, I probably wouldn’t have gotten up and left the theater, but thankfully, they just left it at two – as odd as they may have been.
But really, the main reason Secret in Their Eyes works, is because the cast is so good. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Chiwetel Ejiofor does give, once again, a fine performance here, but there’s also something troubling about his character that I didn’t particularly buy. For example, there’s an arch surrounding his character which concerns his character, in something of a relationship with Kidman’s character; while we’re never too sure or not on whether they actually did anything intimate that would make them more than just office pals, the movie continues to hammer it into our brains that, you know, something could have happened.
Why? Because their attraction for one another is strong!
Well, the problem with Ejiofor and Kidman is that they don’t really have a chemistry together. If anything, throughout the majority of the flick, they feel like two people who just started working together at the same time and are just getting to know one another, slowly but also, steadily. This would have been a fine feeling in the “past” portion of the flick, but they still act like this together in the “present” part of the story and it’s weird.
Separated from Ejiofor, Kidman does a great job in a role that gives her plenty to do. While her chemistry with Ejiofor is, like I stated before, lacking, she still finds time and space to make sure that her own characters get built enough so that we have a feeling of just who the hell she is. And also, there’s Julia Roberts really dirtying herself up for a role that, although may seem like pure Oscar-bait, actually isn’t. In a way, it just feels like Roberts wanting to try something new and have the audience see her as this character, and not the beautiful celebrity that she is.
And considering that her husband is the one behind the camera, it makes sense that she looks every bit as anti-celebrity as she sees fit.
Consensus: While Secret in Their Eyes is, one-half a fine movie, and the other half is a bit mediocre, it still adds up to a solid crime-thriller that benefits largely from a talented cast.
6.5 / 10