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[Movie] Secret in Their Eyes

The first movie I thought about when I got out of Secret in Their Eyes was Prisoners, interestingly enough. I think because Secret in Their Eyes is the movie Prisoners kind of wanted to be–a story about the destructive power of revenge without getting sidetracked by an unnecessarily convoluted mystery investigation.

The movie jumps between 2002 and 2015. In 2002-land, Jess (Julia Roberts) and Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are agents in the counter terrorism task force in LA, at a time when paranoid citizens are buying duct tape and tarps in bulk because they’re afraid of terrorists. Claire (Nicole Kidman) is the new assistant DA in the same office. Jess’s daughter is found, raped and murdered, and Ray tries to find the killer, Marzin (Joe Cole), who turns out to be the snitch that another agent in the task force is using to track alleged terrorists in a nearby mosque. Marzin gets away with it, and in 2015, Ray returns from New York city, convinced he’s found Marzin (now under an assumed identity) and dedicated to this time, bringing him to justice. He finds Jess still in the police department and aged prematurely, and Claire the new District Attorney and climbing fast.

It’s a very well put together film, with the jumps between 2002 and 2015 building both the mystery and the character relationships that define the ending. Kidman and Ejiofor are both absolutely excellent, which shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone’s who’s seen either of them in a movie. But Julia Roberts just steals the show with her performance. It’s also striking that she’s actually allowed, in the film, to look like a plain, grief-stricken woman, who has been aged by her grief. There was a deft hand with the makeup in this one, and I appreciated it. I also appreciated, by the way, what a solid friendship was depicted between Jess and Ray, with all the sexual tension saved for Ray and Claire. There’s a moment early on, when Ray tells Jess, “You’re being a dick.” And she returns. “Thanks for not being sexist. A sexist would have called me something else.”

I was charmed.

It’s an excellent film with excellent acting in it, but definitely not a happy film that’s going to leave you feeling good. It’s disquieting, if not in quite as vile a way as, say, Nightcrawler. It’s an exploration of the reality of thwarted passion and thwarted justice, and what it does to people who live with it.

I want to dig into the themes of the film a little more because there’s a lot of meat to it, so spoilers are going to happen now. But it’s not just about revenge, it’s about the nasty undercurrent of the counter terrorism efforts of the last decade plus, and about the passion that motivates people to continue.

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Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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