Time was when a classily-cast thriller like would be a tentpole Hollywood release, a Silence of the Lambs or a Seven. Now it just languishes like an Oscar nominee’s overgrown graveyard.
A remake, indeed, of an Oscar-winning foreign language pic from 2009, Secret In Their Eyes *** has decent roles for Nicole Kidman (newly elected DA), Chiwitel Ejiofor (tortured investigator re-opening a case) and Julia Roberts (chief investigator with hurt in her past).
Like the Argentinian original, it’s a film about how the past can haunt, and it twists and turns between action 13 years in the past and new discoveries in the present. Chiwitel’s still in unrequitedly love with Nicole; Julia’s still mourning the murder of her daughter, whose killer’s still on the lose and Chiwitel’s just tracked him down. “It’s him, I know it,” he says, having obsessively studies 1000 photos a day.
The new film flits back and forth efficiently. We know which bits are 13 years ago because the first things someone says in these sections is “Shit, the fax machine’s out of paper,” and everyone’s got really tiny mobile phones.
In the later bits, Chiwitel’s got a bit of grey around the temples and Kidman’s hair is in better condition.
The Argentinian film, I recall, had a great sequence tracking a suspect through a football match at the famous Huracan stadium in Buenos Aires during a match against Racing – it’s one of the great tracking shot effects in modern cinema. Here this becomes an inferior sequence set at the Dodger Stadium in LA, which doesn’t have half the breath-taking bravura.
The original movie also had political overtones about the “disappeared’ during the Argentinian Junta rule, politics replaced in the new film with background chatter and paranoia post 9/11. It’s a move which nearly pays off although I seem to remember the original being a lot more about photography and look in people’s eyes, little of which makes it through to the new movie.
Look, there’s nothing terrible about Secret in Their Eyes. It has some well constructed scenes and a strong enough premise of revenge and justice. It just doesn’t quite have the smarts its performers deserve and the climax is a lurch too far into the lurid. But Ejiofor is solid, Kidman is better than she has been for a while and Julia Roberts does a lot of bravely make-up less work that merited her character getting a bit more screen time and complexity.