‘Secret in Their Eyes’ is a mellow thriller with powerhouse cast
JULIA ROBERTS stars in SECRET IN THEIR EYES.
(L-R) JULIA ROBERTS, NICOLE KIDMAN, and CHIWETEL EJIOFOR star in SECRET IN THEIR EYES.
(L-R) CHIWETEL EJIOFOR and JULIA ROBERTS star in SECRET IN THEIR EYES
JULIA ROBERTS stars in SECRET IN THEIR EYES
(L-R) CHIWETEL EJIOFOR and NICOLE KIDMAN star in SECRET IN THEIR EYES.
Perhaps its PG-13 rating held it largely in check, but apart from some disturbing montages of assault, “Secret In Their Eyes” doesn’t quite have the weight its trailer or moody posters might convey. That’s not a deal-breaker, but with such a strong cast and serious subject matter, I steeled myself for a much more grave experience. Interestingly, it was originally shot as an R rated film, but was edited down to PG-13 for its theatrical release. These opening montages hint at what an unnerving film it might have been.
As it is, it’s still a worthy remake of the 2009 Academy Award winner of the same name for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. It was also very much an insider’s job, certainly a “it’s who you know” situation. Julia Roberts’ role was initially earmarked for a male actor (Denzel Washington?), but Gwyneth Paltrow was then cast in the lead role instead. When she dropped out, director and screenwriter Billy Ray rewrote it specifically for Roberts. Then Roberts personally handpicked Nicole Kidman to be her co-star, sending her an email asking “Will you do this with me?”
Perhaps Roberts wanted a rival in Kidman as well as a foil. The unchanging nature of Kidman’s beauty is central to Claire, her character. Meanwhile, Roberts’ Jess implodes over time. Roberts tossed her tiara as America’s Sweetheart and was rewarded with a nomination for “August: Osage County,” and now she goes one more – eschewing the glitz and glam she’s known for and burying her megawatt smile beneath a dowdy and encumbered exterior for much of the film. Chiwetel Ejiofor says she looks like she’s “a million years old” and he’s not far off. I’d love to hear the chatter between her and husband and cinematographer Daniel Moder: “Honey you look awful, it’s great!”
And appearances matter in “Secret In Their Eyes.” Since it unfolds non-linearly, you must pay attention to the wigs and receding hairlines to tell where you are in time. This also allows for our impressive cast to explore development in different ways, and watching them play the same character 13 years apart is rich.
THE FILM: ‘Secret in Their Eyes’
CRITIC RATING: **1/2 stars
STARRING: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Alfred Molina, Joe Cole, Michael Kelly, Zoe Graham, Patrick Davis
BEHIND THE SCENES: According to imdb.com, Julia Roberts’s mother passed away during the production. Roberts returned to filming five days after the loss of her mother. This is the first collaboration between the two actresses Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. Both have been working since the 1980’s, both won their Academy Award in the early 00’s, and both have been among the highest paid actresses in the movie industry. They were to previously star together in Monte Carlo (2011), until the producers opted for younger leads.
PLAYING: Layton Hills 9, Megaplex 13, Cinemark Farmington, Layton Tinseltown, Newgate Tinseltown, Megaplex 14, Walker 8
MPAA RATING: Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing violent content, language and some sexual references. 111 minutes
Luckily, the filmmakers didn’t skimp on the supporting cast either, which includes Dean Norris, Alfred Molina, Joe Cole and Michael Kelly; which means there’s talent everywhere you look.
They’re all on edge against the backdrop of the heightened security that still exists today stemming from the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Ejiofor plays Ray, a Counter Terrorist agent tasked with keeping an eye on the goings on around a suspicious mosque. After a body is found in the dumpster of the mosque’s parking lot, he and fellow investigator Jess (Roberts) are sent to study the crime scene, only to discover the body is that of Jess’ daughter, Carolyn (Zoe Graham)
The sadly routine becomes bloody personal, as their supervisor Claire (Kidman) needs to play by the rules while searching for the killer under the watch of Big Brother. Suspects come and go, charges are brought and dropped, and years drag on without satisfaction. As interested in Claire as Ray may be, he’s far more obsessed with solving the case, even thirteen years later. Their reunion years after Ray has had his fill of The Job and moved on is filled with well-played coyness and regret. Kidman and Ejiofor play off of each other well, especially in a riveting interrogation scene. Although the final act may not be too surprising, Ray’s response to it is. But much of what was cut to make an R into a PG-13 might have revealed a bit more about the nature of Claire’s marriage, as well as her own response to Jess’ not-so startling confession, and what Claire intends to do about it, if anything. These questions and whatever else is on the cutting room floor take a bit of the punch out of the film, but the secrets in the eyes of these great performers anchor an otherwise worthy remake.