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Secret in Their Eyes

Secret in Their Eyes, is a crime thriller about a murder case in which the killer is pursued by three officers of the law over many years. The movie is a good example of an accomplished cast not being able to overcome poor direction. Nicole Kidman is fine, but Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor are lost at sea in roles that they overplay, using their best techniques but without the throttle that good direction would have put on them, dialing it back on occasion in order to make the spots when they should really come to the fore shine by contrast.

Roberts plays the distressed, despondent mom of the victim so fully, she seems to forget she’s also supposedly a hard-nosed detective who can insult her colleagues with the best boys in the office. Unfortunately, her excessively catatonic state telegraphs the secret revealed at the end of the movie to the thoughtful viewer, and that secret was the only fresh thing about the plot. Successful plot-driven movies with a twist like The Usual Suspects or Primal Fear have that secret so buried in brilliant performances, they completely surprise the viewer. Roberts, unrestrained by Billy Ray, Secret’s director, denies us that delight.

In the same way, Ejiofor pursues the killer with an earnest perseverance and righteousness that were held in much better check in Twelve Years a Slave than here. Throughout the movie he comes off as too good, too fervent.

The movie’s failings could have been due to the writing. Ray also penned the script, but his other efforts, Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games and the superb if little known Shattered Glass, have not shown this failing. In any case acting and directing can both trump poor writing by simply changing the lines or altering the cadences in a thousand different ways. That didn’t happen here. Too bad. There aren’t a lot of good thrillers out there nowadays.

Drew Trotter

December 2, 2015

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