The Bock’s Office: ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ is surprisingly weak | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Secret in Their Eyes’ is surprisingly weak

Ray and Jess (Chiwetel Ejiofor

It would be a cinematic sin to reveal too much about any mystery-themed movie. However, as "Secret in Their Eyes" shows, there are worse things than spoilers.

If you go…

"Secret in Their Eyes," rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 111 minutes

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Dean Norris and Julia Roberts

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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For 13 years, Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has been on a manhunt.

Back when he was an FBI investigator, his office was shaken up by the homicide of the teenage daughter (Zoe Graham) of his coworker, Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts), a case that seemed open and shut. But thanks to extenuating circumstances with the primary suspect (Joe Cole), justice was never served.

After going into the private sector but remaining vigilant about the death that still haunts him, Ray is certain he has what he needs to finally settle the matter once and for all. However, when he returns to Los Angeles with his proposal, not everyone who was involved in the case is enthusiastic about reopening old wounds. These include District Attorney Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman), who has a history with Ray, and the mother of the victim, who's been trying to forget the incident happened and move on with her life.

And the more he probes, the more he could be endangering everyone.

Ejiofor is well-suited for the role — quiet and sensitive when he needs to be, with an explosive temper when pushed too far by people on either side of the law. Ray's previous specialty in the bureau's counter-terrorism unit shortly after Sept. 11 shows maybe he is better off in his new position — head of security for the New York Mets — than in a place that requires patience and a willingness to not make things personal.

Of course, his butting heads with the paranoid DA (Alfred Molina) reminds us just how myopic people were back in 2002.

As for the current holder of that job, Kidman balances a woman whose past and present are very different. Back then, Claire was cautiously willing to overlook the bending of certain rules while moving up the legal ladder; these days, she's more inclined to tell Ray to leave well enough alone, though she knows he's doing the right thing.

And, naturally, there's still some feelings between the two.

Roberts is better than she's been in years as Jess, a formerly joyous person made hollow by the death of the center of her world and forced to be an onlooker as others attempt to bring in the man responsible. Though she's often more in the background, your attention goes directly to this grieving mom, both immediately after her ordeal and many years later, as all those emotions are brought flooding back.

Jumping from 2002 to 2015 at a moment's notice — if you're uncertain about the year, use the salt and pepper in Ejiofor's beard as a reference — writer-director Billy Ray does adequate work contrasting the exchanges of someone hot on the trail and those that come years later when things have cooled down for all but the most obsessed, factoring in guilt as a powerful motivator.

Argentina's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" — based on the novel “La Pregunta de Sus Ojos,” which translates to "The Question in Their Eyes" — is shifted from a tale of a man trying to do right for a husband who lost his wife to the mother-daughter angle, playing up the extra tragedy for all it's worth.

Therein lies the problem.

A movie that seems to want to be centered on the small circle of people affected by a senseless killing is undone by a subtext about a nation trying to heal from larger attacks, and this deep focus style of storytelling only makes the big and little pictures alike come out murky.

Were it more cued in on the particulars of its characters instead of trying to make a message out of post-9/11 politics, "Secret in Their Eyes" would pack more of the sentimental punch it has in store. Still, if you can look past its less inspired details, you'll find a pretty unnerving truth.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go…

“Secret in Their Eyes,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 111 minutes

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Dean Norris and Julia Roberts

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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