**The following is an in-depth review of “Secret in Their Eyes” and may contain spoilers, however the spoilers have been kept minimal to preserve the integrity of the film**
"Secret in Their Eyes" is the best film in the last 10 years, and easily one of the top 50 films of all time.
"Secret in Their Eyes" is a remake of an Argentinian film called "El secreto de sus ojos," which in turn was based on a novel called "La pregunta de sus ojos" (Spanish for "The Question in Their Eyes") by Argentinian author Eduardo Sacheri. The original Spanish language version won the 2010 Oscar for "Best Foreign Language Film" and the remake is equally deserving.
The film centers around former FBI counter-terrorism agent Ray Caston, who returns to Los Angeles after leaving the city and the bureau 13 years ago and becoming head of security for the New York Mets.
Thirteen years ago, while performing surveillance on a mosque that was suspected as being a hotbed of terrorist activity post 9/11, the FBI counter-terrorism team is called to investigate a homicide outside the mosque. It is soon discovered that the victim is the teenage daughter of Jess Cobb, one of the officers on the team. After being unable to bring a conviction, Ray leaves the FBI and returns to his home in New York.
Ray spends the next 13 years trying to find the murder suspect and bring him to justice. When he comes across a mug shot that bears a striking resemblance to their suspect - even though he is using an alias - Ray returns to L.A. to tell Jess that he is closing in on her daughter's killer. Ray has obsessed over this case for the past 13 years, and he is determined to see it to the end against the advice from FBI and LAPD officials, as well as one of his closest friends, Claire, who is now the LA district attorney.
Julia Roberts, protraying Jess, is deserving of an Academy Award for her performance in the dumpster scene alone. The entire cast comes together perfectly, and everyone gives amazing performances, but Roberts' really stands out. Roberts has been previously nominated for an Academy Award three times, and won in 2000 for "Erin Brokovich." If "Secret in Their Eyes" doesn't at least earn Roberts her fourth nomination, it would be a crime against movies, and a slight against the Oscar.
The cinematography and general ambience of the film doesn't really do anything original or bring anything new to the psychological thriller genre, but that isn't really important. Yes, it looks and feels like every other film in the genre, but that's because that atmosphere works for the genre. Just because something is standard doesn't make it bad or passé. It's a psychological thriller, and it tells you that from the beginning, even if you've gone into the film without any prior knowledge.
Some of the best performances don't come as much from the acting as they do from the reacting. Director Billy Ray has assembled a cast of actors who have the best facial expressions, especially in the eyes and the brows, of anyone in Hollywood. This is especially true for Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave") and Dean Norris ("Under the Dome").
The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that "'Secret in Their Eyes' wastes its incredible cast on a remake that fails to improve upon -- or even make a compelling case for its own existence in addition to -- the remarkable original."
This criticism is unfair. The majority of people in the audience have probably never seen the original Spanish language film, so comparing it to the original is ridiculous. It may not bring anything new to the table, but it doesn't have to. The English-speaking audience is the new thing that's being brought to the table.
In the end, "Secret in Their Eyes" is a remarkable film. It tells a story that keeps your interest throughout. The audience follows Ray on his journey to solving this long-cold case and as he is putting it together, the audience is also putting the solution together. This may make it seem like the ending is predictable, but it isn't. You're solving the case as it unravels, and it still leaves a few surprises right until the roll of the credits.
Do yourself a favor and run, don't walk, to see this film.
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