"Haunted by a Past Injustice"
What You Need To Know:
SECRET IN THEIR EYES is a fairly engrossing thriller. Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor do a good job as the policewoman, the prosecutor and the former FBI agent. Also, Writer/Director Billy Ray does a better job than you might think of handling the transitions between the two timelines. That said, the story and character motivations don’t always make sense. SECRET IN THEIR EYES has a thought-provoking, somewhat unique take on issues of justice and revenge. However, it has plenty of foul language, some brief suggestive content and intense violence.
(B, P, LLL, VV, S, A, M) Light moral worldview in a dramatic portrayal of issues of justice and revenge concerning a brutal murder and anti-terrorist investigations in the wake of 9/11, some Pro-American values discussed and extolled, but set in a world where justice doesn’t always prevail; about 32 obscenities, eight strong profanities and two light profanities; strong violence includes some jumbled images from a murder of a female teenager, policeman repeatedly punches a suspect after he hits a woman the policeman desires, gunplay during a police raid results in two deaths, a couple foot chases, man torches van, suspect hits former policeman in chest with shovel and gets away, man jumps off stadium walkway and breaks leg, gunshot heard implies a man has been killed; no depicted sex, but some suggestive dialogue, married woman and divorced man still seem to have some feelings for one another after 13 years, but nothing happens, and it’s said that murderer raped his victim, but that is not shown, only part of the struggle between the murderer and his victim; no nudity, but a couple images of female cleavage; alcohol use; no smoking or drugs; and, policeman covers up a brutal murder, kidnapping, and people take the law into their own hands, but movie is a little bit ambiguous about that (movie is an exploration of issues concerning justice, revenge and vigilante justice).
Inspired by an Argentine movie, SECRET IN THEIR EYES is about a former FBI agent who becomes obsessed with bringing the killer of a policewoman’s daughter to justice 13 years after the case was closed. SECRET IN THEIR EYES is an engrossing thriller dealing with issues of justice and revenge, but the surprise ending has some problematic moral issues, and the movie contains plenty of foul language, some brief suggestive content and intense violence.
The structure of the movie’s story goes back and forth between what happened 13 years ago, and the former FBI agent, Benjamin, trying to reopen the case in the present day. Benjamin thinks he’s found the killer, who disappeared 13 years ago after he and the LAPD were unable to make a case against him. He thinks the man has changed his name and had a nose job, but is now on parole for armed robbery.
Thirteen years ago, in the wake of 9/11, Benjamin was assigned to lead an investigation of a mosque that may have a terrorist cell in it. An LAPD officer named Seifert has an unnamed informant at the mosque telling the authorities there’s a terrorist cell operating at the mosque.
One day, a young woman’s body was found in a parking garage dumpster next to the mosque downtown. Sadly, it turned out to be Carolyn, the teenage daughter of an LAPD officer with whom Benjamin worked, Jess. Benjamin saw a photo of a young man at the police picnic, who seems to be looking strangely at Carolyn. No one remembered the man’s name, but Benjamin found out that the man is actually Seifert’s informant at the mosque. Seifert hid that knowledge from Benjamin and Jess, but there’s no solid evidence linking the man to Carolyn’s murder, even though the guy stopped reporting to Seifert the day of Carolyn’s murder. So, the authorities are reluctant to even bring the guy in for questioning. In the wake of 9/11, the terror threat in Los Angeles takes precedence.
That didn’t stop Benjamin and a new female prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office, Claire, from trying to find the man and interview him. They did capture him and bring him in for questioning, but the interview went south. Also, when it’s reported that someone finally found a missing van that the suspect may have used to kidnap Carolyn, murder her and bleach her body, Seifert went there before Benjamin could get there and torched the van.
Thirteen years later, Benjamin is still haunted by the case. He quit the FBI, became head of security for the New York Mets and works on the case in his spare time.
Benjamin is now back in L.A., trying to track down the paroled convict he thinks may be the killer. Will he finally be able to catch this guy and find some justice for Jess and her daughter? Is this convict even the same man?
SECRET IN THEIR EYES is a fairly engrossing thriller. Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor do a good job as Jess, Claire and Benjamin, respectively. The personal wrinkle in the story is that Benjamin has a thing for the beautiful Claire, but she’s engaged to another man. Despite the two timelines, Writer/Director Billy Ray does a better job than you might think of smoothly handling the transitions between the two timelines.
That said, some of the characters’ actions don’t make much sense. Several times, the mother of the murdered girl does things that hamper the investigation, but she’s also supposed to be a professional detective who knows the kinds of things that can jeopardize a case. Also, the movie requires viewers to believe that the bad cop, Seifert, would go out of his way to protect the perpetrator of a brutal crime because he’s an informant in a terrorist investigation. Finally, the final plot twist at the end is a little hard to believe as well.
Thematically, SECRET IN THEIR EYES has a thought-provoking, somewhat unique take on issues of justice and revenge. Although revenge seems to win in the end, the movie’s attitude toward that outcome is ambiguous. Thus, SECRET IN THEIR EYES is not a really immoral movie. In fact, it provides a dramatic story set in a world where justice doesn’t always prevail, about characters trying to navigate dark waters the best they can. However, the movie contains plenty of foul language, some brief suggestive content, intense violence, and some ambiguity about justice versus revenge. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong caution.
Ultimately, of course, the Bible favors justice over revenge. However, it demands the death penalty for premeditated murder (Numbers 35:31) and allows the family of the victim to participate in carrying out that and other penalties. Victims deserve justice, but so do the accused.