Actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly
Director: Billy Ray
Writer: Billy Ray
Producers: Mark Johnson, Matt Jackson
Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2018
Despite a solid cast and a sophisticated screenplay based on the Academy Award-winning Argentinean film, El secreto de sus ojos, Secret in Their Eyes never feels completely necessary. Even dismissing the common decision to remake a foreign film into an English-language copycat, Secret in Their Eyes feels too familiar to a string of better suspense films. With similar moral discussions about certainty of guilt and the consequences of acting on these assumptions, there are many parallels between this film and Prisoners, but not enough new ground is covered to warrant another addition into the sub-genre, much less a remake.
The narrative jumps back and forth between two time periods in order to draw out the suspense from each, but this non-chronological approach can be somewhat confusing in scenes without Julia Roberts, as she is the only actress given a distinctly different look in each period. Roberts is a crime scene investigator named Jess, partnered with Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) when her teenage daughter is discovered murdered. Despite great efforts takes by Ray and his supervisor, Claire (Nicole Kidman), the culprit suspected of the crime is able to use connections to escape punishment. After this missed opportunity, the prime suspect vanishes without a trace, devastating those involved.
13 years later Ray has replaced his career in law enforcement with a low pressure security job, giving him the freedom to spend all of his free time trying to right this injustice from the past. When Ray believes that he has tracked down the man responsible for the death of Jess’s daughter, he returns to Claire with hopes that she will help him finally bring the murderer to justice. We watch this new investigation as it is intercut with sequences from the original investigation 13 years prior, though this seems more for the purpose of dispersing the film’s most exciting sequences than to inspire parallels for comparison between the two.
There is nothing glaringly wrong with Secret in Their Eyes, though it still ends up feeling unneeded and a bit contrived with its final revelations. All of the actors involved give committed and believable performances, but the material never quite matches their level of dedication. It is a story which always appears to have more to say about larger issues than it actually does, eventually resolving to live in the shadow of better films, including the one it is based on.
The Blu-ray release includes a DVD and a Digital HD copy of the film, along with a few extras on the disc. The bonus features include two featurettes, including one with Roberts discussing the difficulty of the grief-filled role of Jess and another about the material’s adaptation. Even more insightful is the feature-film commentary track with filmmaker Billy Ray and his producer, Mark Johnson.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 5.5/10
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