In most detective thrillers, the entire premise thrives on the notion of ambiguity: to determine exactly who the perpetrator is behind the pivotal crime the narrative is based around. However in Billy Ray’s Secret in Their Eyes – a remake of the 2009 Argentine production – we know who the culprit is, and instead study corruption within the FBI, in a story far more concerned with the challenge of putting the criminal behind bars, as opposed to discovering who he may be.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays agent Ray Kasten, who is shocked to discover that the victim of a crime nearby a mosque he is investigating, is his colleague Jess Cooper’s (Julia Roberts) daughter. Though he is assigned specifically to counter-terrorism, given how little the DA (Alfred Molina) appears to be doing to find the killer, he decides to take matters into his own hands, and he discovers that Marzin (Joe Cole) is the murderer. However the reason it’s been so challenging to get a conviction made against the youngster, is because he is an informant to the force, and his information is too valuable to sacrifice. 13 years later and Kasten finally appears to have got his man – but needs to catch him first, not to mention convincing the new DA (Nicole Kidman) to reopen the case.
The tale is structured well, as we move seamlessly between the past and present, with Ejiofor’s grey hair a firm indicator as to which period we are currently in. However it’s difficult to commend this title for thriving in an area the original excelled in, merely highlighting how little new elements this particular offering has brought to proceedings. There is an attempt to steep this tale in American culture, using baseball and comic books as a means of building a case against Marzin, but it feels far too contrived in its execution. Meanwhile, Roberts turns in a fine performance, as the most empathetic character within this production, but sadly the same can’t be said of the wooden Kidman, with yet another blemish to add to a long list of recent poor career choices.
It’s been only six years since the original picture was released (which then won the Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film), so to justify this remake, something creative needed to be done with the source material, but that simply isn’t the case. There may be positives within this piece, but ultimately here is a film suffocated by its own lack of originality.