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With: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Michael Kelly, Joe Cole, Zoe Graham, Alfred Molina
Written by: Billy Ray, based on a screenplay by Eduardo Sacheri, Juan José Campanella
Directed by: Billy Ray
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing violent content, language and some sexual references
Running Time: 111
Date: 11/20/2015

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A Prison Make

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A remake of a 2009 Argentinian movie that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this American version has some fine performances and some atmospheric touches, but it feels flat and by-the-numbers.

In the months after 9/11, Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts) are assigned "terrorist" duty, monitoring the comings and goings around a local mosque. One day, they discover the Jess's daughter, murdered in a dumpster there. But even with help from a new district attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman), thanks to the complex politics of the time, the prime suspect walks away.

Thirteen years later, Ray has spent all his free time combing mug shots and thinks he has found the killer. He enlists a few old friends, like agent "Bumpy" (Dean Norris), to track him down. But even now, there are some who do not want the murderer found.

The most important factors, namely the tense, paranoid politics occurring after 9/11, as well as the intense personal agonies suffered by the three lead characters, get only a surface treatment by the writer/director Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Breach). A better movie might have tried some sly commentary as well as burrowing more deeply into the characters.

Clearly, Secret in Their Eyes is more focused on the murder story, and on keeping the 2002 and 2015 timelines straight. All three of the leads, as well as supporters Dean Norris and Alfred Molina, do a fine job with what they have, finding drama in the nooks and crannies of the investigation. But the whole thing feels more like a business decision, an attempt to revive some Oscar glory, than it does an attempt at good storytelling.

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