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Film review: Secret in Their Eyes - Julia Roberts heads Hollywood remake of Argentinian crime thriller

The denouement may be a letdown but there are enough unexpected twists and turnarounds throughout to keep viewers intrigued

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 January, 2016, 4:18pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 January, 2016, 12:29pm

Although it’s dour and grim by turns, this crime thriller possesses enough sleight of hand to keep viewers guessing about how the mystery will resolve. Unless, that is, they’ve watched the 2009 Argentinian film, The Secret in Their Eyes , on which it is based.

The American version changes a few things around – it’s a woman, not a man, who’s grieving for the murdered girl, for instance – but the workings of the plot are all similar. The upshot is that those who’ve seen the mysterious original will find the remake plodding, and those who haven’t will enjoy it as a modern-day film noir.

The story of Secret in Their Eyes is plausible, though not probable. Jess (Julia Roberts) plays a Los Angeles FBI agent working on an anti-terrorist operation at a mosque with colleague Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and District Attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman).

When the body of Jess’ daughter is found next to the mosque, it’s immediately clear who the killer is. But Jess and Ray can’t arrest him, as doing so would jeopardise the anti-terrorism operation. The bulk of the movie takes place 13 years later, when Ray, Claire, and Jess reunite to try to track him down.

Roberts is believable as the vengeful, emotionally exposed mother, and brings gravitas to the role. Kidman is similarly convincing as DA Claire, and a doomed love affair between her and the sensitive Ray adds some depth. The twists and turnarounds are suitably unexpected, although the end is so understated some may find it lacking in drama.

Secret in Their Eyes opens January 7