“Secret in Their Eyes,” a loose adaptation of “El secreto de sus ojos,” the 2010 Argentian Oscar winner for Best Foreign film, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts in a crime drama that made me want to close my eyes and take a nap. This one almost made me wish for the high drama and excitement of last week’s most boring movie “By the Sea.”
The “action” begins when Ray (Ejiofor) a former FBI counter-terrorism expert, blows back into Los Angeles claiming to have new evidence in a thirteen year old murder case. Now living in New York and working in private security, he is still obsessed with finding the killer of his colleague Jess’s (Roberts) daughter. For the better part of a decade he’s been working alone trying to come up with new clues. He’s uncovered something but needs to convince District Attorney—and former office roimance—Claire (Kidman) to green light a new investigation.
What follows is a number of close calls, 911 paranoia—complicating matters is the fact that the main suspect is a snitch providing info on a sleeper cell of terrorists—and some tepid flirtation between Ray and Claire.
Told in a series of flashbacks between present day and thirteen years ago during the active investigation of the crime—with the occasional flashback within a flashback—“Secret in Their Eyes” is a confused mess. Ray has sprigs of gray hair on his head so it must be the present day. Or is it? Do I still care? Nonetheless the story plods along unaffected by the urgently emotional performances by the three leads.
Roberts stands out (and not in a good way) in a stripped-down Academy Award grab of a role while both Ejiofor and Kidman are uncharacteristically dreary. All three allow melodramatics to turn what might have been a good procedural into a soap opera.
The most interesting case in “Secret in Their Eyes” isn’t the murder case but the case the film makes for not remaking perfectly good Oscar winners.