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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Secret in Their Eyes movie review: it should have remained untold

Secret in Their Eyes red light

The 2009 Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language Film has been given a listless Hollywood makeover, one that wastes Chiwetel Ejiofor’s effortless sincerity.
I’m “biast” (pro): loved the original Argentinian film

I’m “biast” (con): loved the original Argentinian film

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language Film from 2009 has been given a pointless, listless Hollywood makeover… one that has no idea how to translate the political situation of the Argentinian original, set partly in the politically repressive 1970s, into something with similar import in post-9/11 Los Angeles. In 2015, cop Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor: The Martian) remains obsessed with bringing to justice the guy he’s positive raped and murdered the daughter of his FBI colleague, Jess (Julia Roberts: Mirror Mirror), back in 2002, and so he brings new evidence to L.A. district attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman: Paddington), hoping to get her to reopen the case. As the film jumps back and forth between 2002 and 2015, a scenario rife with unresolved coincidence unfolds: the body of Jess’s daughter, Carolyn (Zoe Graham: Boyhood), was found in a dumpster next to a mosque that Jess and her antiterrorism team have been surveilling, and the suspect may be someone they had been cultivating as an informer. But this is never anything more than potboiler stuff: there is no political depth or intrigue to it. And that’s the least of the film’s problems. The specific shape of Ray’s dedication to this case, which is wide and profound, is not supported by anything else in the story, certainly not by the depth of the relationship between Jess and Carolyn, which, as far as we can see, Ray was only an outside observer of. When Ray tells Jess in 2015 precisely how his commitment to this case has impacted his life, it’s preposterous… and it would be laughable if not for Ejiofor’s effortless sincerity. It’s a shame he brings more to the script that it has to offer him. Watch the original film instead.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Secret in Their Eyes for its representation of girls and women.


red light 2 stars

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Secret in Their Eyes (2015)
US/Can release: Nov 20 2015
UK/Ire release: Feb 26 2016

MPAA: rated PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing violent content, language and some sexual references
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, threat, sex references)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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