The big challenge for any police thriller is originality; how can new life be wrung from such a convention-fraught genre? Unfortunately, this isn’t a question which Secret in Their Eyes is able to answer convincingly.
The film begins with former FBI investigator Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) returning to the LA department where he once worked, equipped with a new lead on an old case. Some thirteen years ago, his partner Jess’ (Julia Roberts) daughter was raped and murdered. Together with the District Attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman), the pair identified the perpetrator only to see him get away, protected as a counter-terrorism informer. Now Ray believes he’s found the killer again.
As the action alternates between 2002 and 2015, we learn just how much is unresolved in the characters’ lives. A romance simmers between Ejiofor’s unyielding investigator and Kidman’s icy attorney, undamped by time’s passage. It’s one of the film’s stronger elements, but even so never comes fully to life. Part of the problem is that we get more of a sense of Ray’s desire than we do Claire’s. The camera’s distinctly masculine gaze doesn’t help here.
The lead actors play their roles with the kind of assurance that you'd expect from such experts. Ejiofor allows glimmers of guilt to shine through his character's tough exterior; Kidman plays her part with poised understatement; and Robert's depiction of grief approaches the chilling. Yet none can make this an excellent film. Even as the plot twists and turns in the way that a thriller should, it fails to feel surprising, in narrative or aesthetic terms, in the way of the best cinema.
This, after all, is the high standard to which the film should be held, not only because of the acting talent on hand, but also on account of Billy Ray’s history. This is a writer whose screenplays include the Oscar-nominated Captain Phillips and the Blockbuster tour de force The Hunger Games. By contrast to these achievements, Secret in Their Eyes feels decidedly thin.
Secret In Their Eyes UK release date, 26 February
|What||Secret in Their Eyes film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
26 Feb 16 – 26 Apr 16, times vary
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page|