Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Secret In Their Eyes Review

Movies like The Secret In Their Eyes tend to drive me right up the wall, simply because such features squander a plot that one could easily see being good, even excellent, in the right hands. A different screenwriter, someone else behind the camera, just something else to deviate it from the final product playing in over 2300 theaters across the country right now. Granted, what we're left with isn't something that'll join Manos: The Hand Of Fate on the list of "Worst Movies Ever", but it's fairly obvious more could have been done with the cast and storyline.

That storyline in question centers around FBI investigator Jessica Cobb (Julia Roberts) being sent off to examine a dead body found in a dumpster. That body turns out to the deceased form of Jessicas daughter, Carolyn (Zoe Graham), and she and her friend, and fellow FBI investigator Raymond Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor), into a despair and vengeance filled spiral. Now, that's a pretty intriguing premise, especially considering how easily it could be translated into different tones. One could take this set-up and then have Julia Roberts go off on a Taken-esque hunt for revenge, or, conversely, one could take a page from the playbook of fellow "My children are missing" tale Prisoners and have it be sobering look at the lengths parents will go when their children are on the line.

In terms of tone, the film goes the second route and plays things in a dramatic manner in terms of everything from the visual look of the film (there's a very constrained appearance to many scenes in terms of lighting) to the plots dark tone, which includes setting the murder just in the aftermath of 9/11. Problem is, none of the themes touched upon in The Secret Of Their Eyes seem to justify the bleak tone its striving for; yes, the entire story is triggered by the murder of an innocent woman, but instead of utilizing its gloomy aesthetic to ponder deeper questions like the dark nature of humanity, it instead spends considerable amount of screentime focusing on Raymonds pining for co-worker Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman).

What does this romance have to do with the overall themes of the motion picture? Hell if I know. All it does is demonstrate a clingy nature of Raymond that the film feels oblivious to as well as show that even a masterful actor like Ejiofor can't make such portions of the movie work. Speaking of Raymond, the film focuses primarily on him, which may be the greatest flaw of the entire motion picture. Why aren't we centering this tale on Jessica and what she's going through after losing her only child?

Yes, Raymond is also feeling sorrow after this loss, but the one or two scenes that concentrate on what's going through Jessica's psyche after this tragedy are so good they made me yearn for more focus on her turmoil. One particular scene of this nature, where Jessica reminisces about a mundane conversation she and her daughter shared, is particularly well done, especially since Jessica is remembering the sort of casual encounter that leaves a mark on ones mind despite seeming so unremarkable while it happened. That's an insightful moment that I wish was more plentiful in the movie, especially since the majority of the film is centered on Raymonds uninvolving hunt for the man who killed Carolyn that has some bizarre moments of shoehorned in comedy (a dog gets punted while another "crucial" bit has an officer barging in on an innocent man on the toilet) that really don't have any place in a film like this dealing with such dark material like murder and rape.

Considering The Secret In Their Eyes bizarrely sidelines its best character and seems to have no idea how to merge its story with an appropriate tone, it's kind of a wonder the movie isn't a complete trainwreck. Thankfully, the lead actors do turn in some good work (Roberts is particularly noteworthy for her commitment to depicting her characters unrest), and Billy Rays direction, while lacking distinctive personality, at least is competent. But when all you can think about while you're watching a movie is how easily it could have been drastically improved, methinks something has gone astray.

No comments:

Post a Comment