“Secret In Their Eyes” is a suspense-mystery drama that wraps up a murder case and unrequited emotions. It interweaves the personal lives of a team of state prosecutors with a manhunt spanning 13 years.
The narration starts off on an off-beat note with FBI investigator Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) returning to the District Attorney’s office, after a hiatus of 13 years. He reconnects with his ex-colleagues which includes investigator Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts) and their supervisor Claire (Nicole Kidman).
With his re-appearance, Ray opens old wounds as well as the unsolved murder case of Jess’s daughter Carolyn Cobb (Zoe Graham). While the tale persistently nudges the audience towards a predictable finale, it is the unusual and bizarre disclosure at the very end, that elevates this film from a simple realistic one to an exciting thriller that makes way for debates.
The script, written and directed by Billy Ray, is based on a Spanish novel “La Pregunta De Sus Ojos”, which means, The Question In Their Eyes, written by Argentinian author Eduardo Sacheri. The novel was previously adapted into a Spanish film and it won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.
In Ray’s version, the details of the central murder are somewhat changed from the original film, but it still is as engrossing as the original, mainly due to the powerful story and performances of the ace star cast.
Ejifor as Ray Kasten, explores every psychological shade of a moral man who is hot- headed and a devoted friend, torn between the women in his life and the unsolved case. He is an outstanding performer with an unusual range. He is ably supported by Kidman, who plays the unsure yet confident, Claire, competently. Roberts in a deglamourised role, with her fringed and unkempt hair-cut as a distraught mother and an unassuming colleague is hauntingly intense.
While the performances keep you hooked, it is the snappy edits along with the screenplay criss-crossing between the past to the present that makes the viewing confusing at times. The real chemistry and the essence of the relationship between the characters along with their mood and time, is lost in the pacing of the story. Also, it is never clear whether Ray is pointing out the dangers of an unchecked terror or affirming the need for closure at any cost.
Visually, cinematographer Danny Moder’s frames are straightforward. He captures the drama and the action with equal fervour. The computer generated shots during the man-hunt which includes those at the racecourse and a baseball stadium, seamlessly merge with the flow to give a holistic picture. These images are paired well with Emilio Kauderer’s haunting background score.
Taken at face value, “Secret in Their Eyes” is an absorbing film albeit a bit ambiguous. This film is worth watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Film: “Secret in Their Eyes”; Director: Billy Ray; Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly and Zoe Graham; Rating: ***