*Potential Spoiler Alert: You Have Been Warned*
In a weekend when one of the biggest blockbusters of the year opens up, sometimes it’s nice to watch something a little simpler while still being engaging. If you’re not into the Dystopian, over-the-top world of Mockingjay Pt. 2 this weekend, you can stop by Secret In Their Eyes. It’s nothing awe-inspiring, maybe, and you can probably figure out the ending to this story fairly quickly, but as far as story-telling and character work goes, it’s definitely worth the price of a ticket.
In 2002, a team of investigators who specialize in observing potential terrorist activity is shaken to its core when the daughter of one of its members, Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts) is found murdered in the dumpster next to the mosque they have under surveillance. Thirteen years later, former member Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) returns to L.A. to convince the now District Attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman) to reopen the case, certain that after years of searching he has found Carolyn Cobb’s killer. Switching between 2002 and present day, the team explores the limits of pain and personal vengeance, as well as the paths not taken because of the closure they didn’t have.
Ejiofor walks the line between obsessed and justified, constantly searching for a man who slipped through his fingers years ago, while also managing to inspire a few laughs from us in a movie with a serious subject matter. If he couldn’t do it, it would be an awfully long two hours. The relationship between his character and Kidman’s, however, is less than satisfying, partially because of their chemistry with each other (more on Kidman’s end honestly, she seemed a little conflicted as to what exactly her character was supposed to be for most of the film) and partially because they couldn’t make me care about their relationship. Sure, he was a boy from the wrong side of town and she was a Harvard graduate, but the interesting part of this movie is not their love story, and we got wayyyyyy too much of it. The story about vengeance, terrorists and the time after 9/11, and the internal affairs of the police force? That is interesting to me, not this too-little too-late pairing that takes up a rather significant portion of screen-time.
Roberts, however, is completely fantastic, and actually really underused in this movie, considering how much of the plot revolves around her. If we’re going to talk about anyone’s eyes in this movie, we need to be talking about hers. Sure everyone in this movie “ages” thirteen years, but she almost looks like she’s aged more than that, and that is exactly how she should look- the events of this movie have drained her, and she’s just a shell of her original self. Roberts also transitions from the happy, team-mother figure to the mother who both wants justice and just wants an end to the wondering seamlessly, sometimes adding in this really-wide-eyed quality that makes you want to either give her a hug or back away really slowly.
Perhaps the most interesting this about this movie is the timeframe- the original murder takes place in 2002, just after 9/11. The team is centered around terrorist investigation, which may have something to do with Carolyn’s death. The movie focuses on the fear behind the times, when any little movement by anyone remotely suspicious could mean another tower is about to come crumbling down. In light of the recent Paris attacks and crisis’ all over the world, it really shows us how the world has and hasn’t changed. There’s still that underlying fear, that need to protect your country and loved ones from the bigger threat, and how sometimes that fear leads to things slipping through the cracks.
That being said, the movie ends almost too quickly for my taste. With so much time spent with on Ejiofor and Kidman, it almost feels like the actual case we were hoping to see completed onscreen is given the quickest, perhaps most predictable end because the filmmakers ran out of screen time. The ending may not be exactly what is expected, but it’s pretty damn close, and I had hoped a little more to walk out of the theater feeling more satisfied than I really did.
Theater or DVD, I still think it’s worth a look.