Here’s a mystery that offers a large number of questions. What exactly happened? Who did it? How good is the evidence? Were Muslims involved? Who was that guy at the office picnic? Is the suspect really that big a Dodgers fan? Did someone spend 13 years looking at photos of inmates? Secret In Their Eyes throws out many questions, a handful of hints, but few solid answers until the final act.
Secret In Their Eyes is notable because it features Julia Roberts as a haggard, world-weary, older woman who dresses in drab attire. Audiences have seen many looks from Julia over the last quarter century, but this may be the least glamorous face she’s shown the world.
Roberts plays Jess, an investigator in the L.A. district attorney’s office. Her daughter is found dead in 2002 in a dumpster next door to a mosque. In the year after 9/11, law enforcers, including the D.A. (Alfred Molina) are obsessed with terror threats.
Her former colleague, Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) returns to L.A. in present day with a lead on the murder. He tries to convince the current D.A. Claire (Nicole Kidman) to let him pursue the man he suspects did the deed 13 years earlier. He claims to have pored over online photos of prisoners across America and found the one whose eyes match those of a man in a photo.
As plain jane-ish as Julia appears, Nicole is as gorgeous as she’s ever been, with a top-notch wardrobe. Both women, by the way, are 48 years old.
A problem with the film and its storytelling (Billy Ray is writer and director) is the transitions between 2015 and 2002. They are not always clearly demarcated. The film is adapted from a 2009 Argentinian film El Secreto De Sus Ojos, which is ranked #134 on IMDB’s list of the all-time Top 250 films.
Secret In Their Eyes has a simmering unrequited romance between Ray and Clare. He has the hots for her but she keeps him away, mentioning her fiancé back east.
A scene I loved was a drone flyover shot of Dodger Stadium showing purported game action, just before a scene where Ray and fellow investigator Bumpy (Dean Norris) pursue the alleged perp.
Despite flaws in pacing, choppy delivery of the narrative and a few misdirections, Secret In Their Eyes is a decent, if not great, well-acted crime mystery.