‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ — from Argentina to America

Frankly, itand’s not such a big secret if youand’ve seen the original 2009 Argentinian-Spanish film andquotEl secreto de sus ojos,and” directed by Juan Josandeacute Campanella, which garnered the Oscar for best foreign language film.
One would think that Hollywood would leave it longer before producing remakes of foreign films in order to refrain from waking the fresh memories of international viewers but lo and behold, it seems that such concerns are minimal when the target audiences are mainly local moviegoers who might never have stumbled upon the originals.
As such, from an international perspective, it is inevitable to compare the remake with the original, a mystery thriller whose effect completely relies on the surprise plot twist at the end.
Going back and forth over a period of 13 years, the story starts in 2002 Los Angeles, right during the time when the US Department of Homeland Security increased its surveillance operations after the tragic 911 terrorist attacks. Local police investigator Jess (Julia Roberts) and FBI agent Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who has been brought in from New York, are investigating suspicious activities around a neighborhood mosque. When they get a call that a female body has been found in a dumpster in the garage under the mosque, little can they anticipate the horrifying truth behind the crime. The body belongs to Jessand’s teenage daughter she has been raped and bleached. Jess is in shock, as is Ray. Newly appointed Harvard law graduate Clair Sloan (Nicole Kidman), who Ray is developing a huge crush on, is trying to help them.
But things get increasingly complicated when the main suspect of this sexual crime, Marzin (Joe Cole), turns out to be an asset who is necessary in the bureauand’s anti-terrorist activities, so solving the case is put on hold, accompanied by a mysterious disappearance of the relevant evidence. Yet a gnawing feeling is eating at Ray, Jess and Claire over the years — hence the use of intertwined flashback sequences between now and then. One note on this matter: It is only Roberts who looks like sheand’s aged over the years, while it is sometimes hard to differentiate between the old and new Ejiofor and Kidman.
In 2015, Ray thinks he has found a new clue leading to Marzin. He tries to reopen the case with the help of the two women who he was so close to back in the day.
The film focuses on the concept of passion and the lengths that individuals will go to in order to realize their obsessions. In the case of Claire, it is seeking justice for her daughter and for Ray, it is how he could never forget his romantic feelings for Claire.
The three leads prove their acting virtuoso throughout with restrained yet intense performances, but the problem with this American remake is its fixation on fitting the story into the mold of the typical genre structure in which the real motivations and passions intrinsic to the characters are never fully displayed.
Sadly, there is a major problem of conviction and empathy with the situation at hand. Writer-director Billy Ray has chosen to dismiss the melodramatic quality of the original film, which had made it so powerful and given meaning to the plot twist at the end.
Furthermore, on a different note, the amazing single-shot chase sequence that took place in a football arena in the original film has been replaced by an anxiously edited chase sequence at a baseball stadium. One wonders, with all the resources at the disposal of Hollywood, why the American filmmakers chose to replace this hallmark single-shot take with weaker craftsmanship.
For those who havenand’t watched the original, and”The Secret in Their Eyesand” will translate as a tightknit thriller to indulge in on an empty weekend.
Sure, it is still an entertaining film and offers some great moments of acting and suspense, but those who have the time to compare both films will be disappointed. One expects that the theme of anti-terrorism surveillance used in the background will lead to a larger political truth or enfold as an organic part of the climactic finale, yet it is only utilized as a functional device to propel the plot.


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