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Police procedurals pretty much rule the airwaves when you look at broadcast TV. The more successful ones tend not to let the reality of good police work get in the way of a good story, but even they will try to keep it real to a certain extent. Secret In Their Eyes certainly follows the first clause, while flagrantly disregarding the second, leading to a story overwrought with personal drama, and with the sloppiest sleuthing you'll see in ages. It's also, unfortunately, material beneath the stellar cast it has assembled.
In the blink of an eye, the lives of three law enforcement agents change irrevocably when one of their own (Julia Roberts) loses their daughter to a vicious murder. After 13 years of thinking and rethinking the case's history, a former FBI agent (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the current district attorney (Nicole Kidman), both of whom were on the case originally, think they've got their guy after all of this time. With each move they make, two from the past come back to haunt them, ultimately leading them to a truth that was in front of them the whole time.
Secret In Their Eyes would have made a killing as a basic cable movie, as it's got the mood and the atmosphere for such a project, with enough character actors and big names to make for a ratings bonanza. Unfortunately, the performances by the outstanding cast of actors are failed by Billy Ray's writing and directing duties, as he once again tackles remaking a foreign product for American audiences. What's more, even the most die hard Law And Order fan would be able to tell you how messy the story and its characters are, as the problems the characters see themselves experiencing are caused by their own shoddy work ethic in 9 out of 10 scenarios.
If anyone from the main trio gets out of this film unscathed, it's Ejiofor – as his performance of Ray, the former FBI agent working with Roberts' Jess and Kidman's Claire, is way better than this film deserves. This is especially sad, considering that Roberts and Kidman are two of the best actors of our time, and yet they're given hardly anything to do except be sad or regretful – though they do make the best out of the script's limitations. Though you'll barely have time to notice that during your viewing of Secret In Their Eyes, as you'll be trying to keep the non-linear storytelling straight, what with the film jumping between the past and present, and with the only cues being gray hair and a limp.
Fans of television procedurals might get more mileage out of Secret In Their Eyes than an average moviegoer would, if only because they're so used to the well-worn cliches that are omnipresent in the genre that they'll be willing to overlook the film's flaws. As far as procedurals go, this film does have an excellent cast that knows how to elevate even the most pedestrian material. Still, the secret in the eyes of the cast is that they're stuck in a film that doesn't deserve its day in court. It should only be viewed if you want more of the same material you can watch daily on the majority of TNT's line-up.