SECRET IN THEIR EYES
*** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Billy Ray
STARS Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman in Secret In Their Eyes (Photo: STX Entertainment)
The Argentinian drama The Secret In Their Eyes earns my vote as the best non-English import of at least the past 10 years, deservedly taking the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. An American remake sounded like a suicide mission, the sort of wrong-headed thinking that allowed the superb and uncompromising Dutch thriller The Vanishing to be remade as a dim-witted Yankee property, complete with a tacked-on happy ending. Shockingly — and happily — that's not the case with the stateside interpretation Secret In Their Eyes (oddly dropping the The), which never matches the intensity of its predecessor but still manages to work quite nicely on its own.
Billy Ray, whose past credits include writing and directing Shattered Glass and penning Captain Phillips and the first Hunger Games film, has smartly found a way to localize and contemporize the material, changing the original's backdrop of Argentina's Dirty War to our nation's 9/11 tragedy. There are a couple of other major changes — neither crippling — but the thrust remains the same: Constantly shifting between two time periods (2001 and today), it follows an intrepid investigator (Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he spends years trying to locate the man (Joe Cole) who raped and killed a young woman, assisted in his efforts by his colleagues (Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts) but meeting heavy resistance and even interference from top-level government officials. Unlike the original, Ray's update doesn't have the pervading atmosphere of paranoia or persistent stench of evil hanging over every scene, but it does have Ejiofor, whose performance is a thing of beauty.