Secret in Their Eyes movie full length review - "The Secret in Their Eyes" has a great premise and terrific performances, but suffers from flaws in its logic and editing.
There are probably as many different evening routines over the course of an average week as there are people in the U.S. Some go to movies, while others go clubbing or just hang out with family and friends.
Some stay inside pursuing hobbies like gaming, reading or even coin collecting, while others prefer to lounge in front of the TV or the computer or just go to bed early to get some extra shut-eye after a long work day. But few do anything like what ex-cop Ray Caston does. Ignoring family and friends, eschewing the simple pleasures of an enjoyable past-time, after his day's work is done, he sits in front of his office computer and scrolls through mug shots, hoping to solve a 13-year-old murder case. It's amazing what strong personal loyalty and an overwhelming sense of guilt can drive a man to do, yet that's exactly what we see play out in the mystery-thriller "Secret in Their Eyes" (PG-13, 1:51).
In 2002, single mom and police officer Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts) loses her teenage daughter, Carolyn (Zoe Graham), to a brutal, cold and calculating rape and murder. For reasons we won't reveal here, Carolyn's friend and partner feels personally responsible for what happened. Ray is actually an FBI agent working with Jess on the LAPD's counter-terrorism task force, but he sets out on a mission with co-worker Bumpy Willis (Dean Norris) to find Carolyn's killer. When they think they've found their man, there's a problem? actually, several of them. Claire, the task force's prosecutor (Nicole Kidman), to whom Ray happens to be romantically attracted, doesn't think Ray has enough evidence to prosecute, while co-worker Reg Siefert (Michael Kelly) does everything he can to block Ray's investigation.
You see, all this is happening just a few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Los Angeles is certain that they're going to be the next target. Ray's "person of interest" in Carolyn's rape and murder is a man named Marzin (Joe Cole), a member of a local mosque out of which a terrorist sleeper cell is operating. Reg thinks that Marzin is the task force's key to breaking up that cell. Politically-ambitious L.A. district attorney, Martin Morales (Alfred Molina) won't charge Marzin, citing all the arguments that Ray gets from both Claire and Reg. Ray gets Marzin to come in for questioning and elicits what some might consider a confession, but is forced to let him go free. Claire is sympathetic but unable to help, Ray is incredibly frustrated and Jess, who was already despondent, "dies just a little bit more."
Ray left the bureau shortly after the unsuccessful attempt to charge Marzin with Carolyn's murder. Claire remained a cop, but moved out to the country. Marzin dropped off the radar and Ray took a private sector job across the country, but never gave up the fight for justice, and his goal to bring some peace to his old friend. Ray's sure that a guy like Marzin would end up in the prison system eventually, so he spent his evenings (13 years' worth!) looking at digital images of every adult white male inmate in the U.S. When he finally found a familiar face, he went back to L.A. to present his evidence. Claire is now L.A.'s assistant DA, but she's skeptical of the information that Ray brings to her. At this point, even Jess seems hesitant to get involved in re-opening the case. Bumpy is still around as is willing to help, but, just like back in 2002, Ray and Bumpy are operating beyond their authority and using highly questionable methods to pursue a suspect simply based on their suspicions of who he is and what he's done.
"The Secret in Their Eyes" is the second film adaptation of Eduardo Sacheri's 2005 novel "La pregunta de sus ojos" ("The Question in Their Eyes"). The first was the 2009 Argentine-Spanish movie, "El secreto de sus ojos" ("The Secret in Their Eyes"). That film won an Oscar (for Best Foreign Language Film). "Secret in Their Eyes", will not (at least not for the film as a whole). The 2015 treatment is only very loosely based on the source material and has significant scripting and editing issues. The film's strengths lie in its performances, its basic premise and the story's resolution. Ejiofor and Kidman are both excellent, while Roberts gives what may be the best performance of her storied career. The drama is compelling and the plot twists late in the movie are as unexpected as they are shocking, but getting there means dealing with some non-sensical decisions by the filmmakers. The script has cops doing things that would generally ruin any chance for a successful prosecution of the guilty, and telling the story by jumping back and forth between events in 2002 and 2015 was sometimes confusing and completely unnecessary.
"Secret in Their Eyes" wants to be more shocking than it is, but partially sabotages itself with fixable flaws. This movie has enough going for it to recommend it to fans of the film's actors and/or movies in the mystery and thriller genres, but it could have been so much better. Go to the movie for the drama of an Oscar-winning actress pursuing justice for her murdered daughter and stay for the wicked twists, just do your best to ignore the film's distracting editing choices and the characters' lapses in logic. "B"