Secret in Their Eyes
When watching an English language remake of a foreign language film, it can be nearly impossible to avoid comparisons between the two. And yet, there’s always the lingering thought that the latter work only exists because of an aversion to subtitles that many English-speaking audiences seem to have. This is a shame, but it’s not exactly a revelation that Hollywood will attempt to take a well-told existing story in another language and modify it for a mainstream audience. The story can gain a number of attributes, but it often loses more than it manages to gain. This is the disappointing case with Secret in Their Eyes, which is the 2015 remake of the Oscar-winning 2009 Argentinian film with the wholly different title of The Secret in Their Eyes.
Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a former FBI agent who visits his former colleagues, district attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman), and investigator Jess (Julia Roberts). He’s discovered new information about the man who murdered Jess’s daughter 13 years earlier, and so it’s time to get the band back together again. The story leaps back and forth between the events of 13 years ago and the present day, and it’s often difficult to identify the period until the characters are framed in a way that permits identification of their hairstyles.
The infinitely superior original film drew upon Argentina’s dark history, namely its Dirty War of the 1970s (which was essentially state-sponsored terrorism). This added a profound richness to the gloom, and while it has understandably been jettisoned for the remake, the 2015 version lacks a sense of dread. Director Billy Ray has certainly tried, with subtle performances, understated lighting and subdued landscapes. He has also set the flashback sequences in the months immediately after September 11th to create a sense of confusion and paranoia. It’s just difficult to be drawn in by these tricks, and his attempts to place certain aspects of his story within a heavy social and political context just feel cynical.
Kidman and Roberts are fantastic actresses, and so it’s difficult to see what drew them to the script. They seem to have been given one word direction notes (shrewd and anguished, respectively). Ejiofor fares slightly better, but only just. Secret in Their Eyes is a slick thriller, but it’s one that will be forgotten the moment the screen fades to black.
Secret in Their Eyes is released nationwide on 26th February 2016.
Watch the trailer for Secret in Their Eyes here: