HOLLYWOOD—When awards season rolls in, I always pinpoint a film or two that becomes a must-see on my list based on the trailer, not on the critical buzz from the many festivals. One of those flicks is the drama “Secret in Their Eyes,” with an all-star cast including Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman and Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film is directed by Billy Ray, who is responsible for his writing credits on such films as “State of Play,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Captain Phillips.”
The movie is based on the 2005 novel by Argentinian author Eduardo Scaheri and is a remake of the 2009 Argentine film “The Secret in Their Eyes” that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010. Roberts and Ejiofor portray FBI investigators Ray (Ejiofor) and Jess (Roberts) whose lives are turned upside down when Jess learns that her daughter has been murdered. Kidman portrays Claire, the District Attorney who does her best to prevent both Ray and Jess from going over the edge.
There is an intense scene in the movie between Claire and the potential suspect. The way that she diminishes his physical prowess and mental capabilities is explosive; it almost leaves the viewer laughing in the theater seat, while sitting in awe as Kidman does what she does best: act. If you ever wanted to shake someone’s psyche, the character sure did so without even trying.
Roberts delivers a tour-de-force performance as a woman facing a parent’s worst fear: the death of their child. Watching that scene where she comes face-to-face with her daughter in that dumpster is not only heart-breaking, but takes a level of skill for an actress to pull-off such raw emotion. Its moments like that that screams what I call that ‘Oscar moment’ that tends to be recognized time and time again by the Academy. You sometimes just know it, when you see it.
The one slight problem with “Secret in Their Eyes” is the factoid that this is a film that asks the audience to be patient with the narrative and the direction the movie head in. It’s a tangle between Ray and Claire who do all in their power to prevent Jess from going off the rails. She becomes consumed with anger, rage and vengeance so much to the point that it’s not a direction that hasn’t been seen before in cinematic history.
Imagine a 13-year time span where someone baits there time at finding justice for their loved one? There were moments where the movie reminded me of “The Brave One” starring Jodie Foster, only this time around, Roberts tackles the main role. “Secret in Their Eyes” is a drama that teeters on gut-punching the spectator and making the audience identify with the Jess’ character, but respecting the law at the same time. While not an original piece of work, the emotions the film ignites are unforgettable.