The 2015 film ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ is based off the Argentinian film of the same name. However, in comparison, the 2015 American re-make falls short of making the mark. The American film features a team of FBI agents in the Counter Terrorism unit, a year after the 9/11 attacks. A murdered body is found near one of their surveillance locations. The entire team is shook to the core, when the body is revealed to be the daughter of one of them. Thus begins tumultuous cat and mouse game as Jess, the mother, played by Julia Roberts, her work partner Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a lawyer, Claire, (Nicole Kidman) try to nab the murderer. The story spans 13 years, interchanging between the first attempt and the current.
While this was a really great film, with lots of twists and turns, I honestly did not see the point in re-making it for an American audience. My main problem with re-making foreign films is that firstly – nothing is ever added to make the story more intriguing and secondly – it’s more often than not ‘watered down’ and lost part of its magic. Unfortunately this film did both of these. While I did find it interesting that the director & screenwriter Billy Ray, changed the film to be more relevant to an audience, particularly with the backdrop of a post 9/11 audience filled with conspiracies and cover ups – I felt this all detracted from the main story. We’ve lost the pain and heartbreak that Jess felt when she discovers her daughter’s body in a dumpster and rather it is replaced by borderline conspiracy theories and frustration.
Throughout the film Ray and Claire have this semi-romantic subplot, as was the case in the original film with the two lawyers. While in the original, this was done perfectly, I felt in the American remake it came off very tacky. It was almost thrown in there at incredibly odd times, what particularly frustrated me was that both Ray and Claire were close to Jess, yet Ray spent so much time focused on Claire. One particular moment in the film screamed creepy; in the film the murderer of Jess’ daughter is seen to be staring at the daughter in a number of photos. When we see a picture of Jess, Ray, Claire and other team mates, you can see Ray staring at Claire. While this was used to show his ‘secret’ un-requited love, I felt it was inappropriate considering what it had been used to show a couple of scenes ago. Kidman, as Claire, acted worse than a block of wood. She had barely any emotion throughout the film and even during a massive review stares at the other characters blankly while in monotone goes “I need a minute”.
In terms of ‘watering down’ the intensity and intrigue of the film, I felt the ending really did take away from the mystery of the original. The original had a very open end, where audiences could debate what happened, and it also brought up questions of morality – what was right and wrong, and most importantly, what you would do in the same situation. The ending was haunting and left audiences questioning. In the remake everything was tied up with a neat little bow. Audiences left the cinema feeling some strange sense of contentment – which again, with the subject matter, I felt was strangely done.
In terms of cinematic technique scene changes between 2002 and 2015 were not very well done. It often took a couple of minutes for audiences to orientate themselves, with the main markers being Ray’s greying hair and Claire’s hair cut. I really liked the music but I felt it was a bit overused, especially during the last 10-15 minutes where it was continuous.
Overall, while the film was reasonable in itself, it wasn’t that great of a remake.