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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Secret in Their Eyes | Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Zoe Graham | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Secret in Their Eyes | Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Zoe Graham | Review

The 13-year-old unsolved murder of a detective’s daughter entangles three lives in this dark and noir-ish tale of regret and revenge.  Forget redemption.

 Secret in Their Eyes is actually a remake of a 2009 Academy Award winning (for Best Foreign Film) Argentine film, El Secreto De Sus Ojos, although Oscar bait, it’s not.  There are a few worthwhile performances in this version’s muddled story, full of confusing flashbacks, mistaken identity, and physical attraction which unfortunately screens as a monumental distraction.

Present-day federal agent Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) discovers a photograph from a company picnic held 13 years prior, showing an unsavory-looking character (Joe Cole) eyeing then-partner Jess’ (Julia Roberts) daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham).  The young woman ends up raped, murdered and thrown into a dumpster, only to be discovered by her own mother.  13 years later, Ray is on the hunt for the man, even though he’s supposed to be assigned to counter- terrorist activities.

13 years prior, Ray met and became smitten by new assistant DA Claire (Nicole Kidman).  The present-day Ray again finds the attraction igniting as he reconnects with Claire, now the DA.  If you think I’m jumping to and fro now, it only gets worse.

Clumsy and confusing flashbacks uncover the initial investigation before zigging and zagging across the 13 years to present time.  Meanwhile, not one character seems able to make sound decisions.  An ominous, overly loud soundtrack attempts (and fails) to make circumstances seem more profound than they actually are.

 Passion, devotion, and obsession, in unequal measure, hover around the reopened investigation.  There is one powerfully raw scene as Jess discovers her daughter’s murdered corpse in a dumpster, discarding her latex gloves to hold the lifeless body as she emits a visceral wail that you can actually feel as well as hear.   Claire’s scene of the verbal and sexual baiting of a suspect is clever, if unprofessional.  Ray’s anguish is palpable throughout.  Some good performances here.

Writer-director Billy Ray’s (Breach) American remake suffers from abrupt, non-linear editing and rapid time spasms.  Is it now?  Is it then?  The characters don’t change appearance enough to immediately comprehend flashbacks vs. current events.  Combine that with mistaken identity because two guys look alike and a lot of conjecture…Is this the guy?  How about him?  No, it’s him!  It’s not him…and you have a cinematic see-saw.

For example, a flashback DA (Alfred Molina) wants to stop the case from advancing and current DA Claire is not convinced that Ray is on the right track, but hints that they could have been something more than co-workers; as if we don’t have enough to keep track of.  When the expected twist comes, it’s more of a relief than a surprise.

Stop the mystery, I want to get off.

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