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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

United We Stand

Secret in Their Eyes (2015) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Secret” opens in medias res with Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) scanning a mind-numbing array of mug shots on his computer and cuts to a violent flash­back of a grue­some rape and murder, we assume committed by the perp he's looking for. A pastiche shot lends it the aura of an all-consuming quest. He has an ‘aha’ moment finding a match. That brings him to L.A., to his old cronies in law enforcement (“What brought you back this way? Good to see you, Ray.”)

The film goes back to “13 years earlier, 2002”, another day at the office (“FAX went down again”), a poster on the wall declaring, "United We Stand", Ray (“We're the new kids in town”) and Claire—“Today is picture day”—(Nicole Kidman) being newly assigned to this office, the former from the FBI, Philly office to help FBI investigator Jess (Julia Roberts) round out L.A.'s counter­terrorism (CT) task force, the latter as an assistant DA.

Cut to the present, 2015, Claire is now the DA, Jess is still an investigator, and Ray “went to the private sector.” Ray tells Jess, “I found him. I found Marzin.”

Back to 2002, Jess noticing an attraction between Ray and Claire suggests he ask her out. Ray replies, “Have a little respect. She's engaged. This is inappropriate.” The FBI gets a call: “LAPD just found an unidentified woman's body in a dumpster.” The feds were called in because it was “next to our Mosque.” Their banter on the way to investigate reveals their #1 rule: “Protect the snitch.” Okay. Ray wearing his American flag lapel pin peers into the dumpster and recognizes the body as Jess's teenage daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham). In shock he tells Jess who is stricken with grief. Claire catches the case.

Retreat to the present and Clay tells Jess that one Marzin (Joe Cole) who now goes by Beckwith is out on parole having just done 10 years for auto theft. Claire is pressed to “Reopen it.” What follows in time lines that jump back and forth is an agon among: Claire who needs to stay professional, their haughty main suspect Marzin (Beckwith?) who feels untouch­able as he's the FBI's inside guy at the Mosque, the old (2002) DA Martin Morales (Alfred Molina) who won't blow their guy's cover by arresting him, Ray who feels inadequate having failed in an opportunity to protect Carolyn on the day of her murder, and Jess who considers extra­legal means to exact justice.

What's easy to miss in the hubbub is the nonstarter of Claire & Ray's office romance. What was that even all about? Pay attention to her interrogation of Marzin where she baits him with her assessment of his failed manliness, and put that manliness on Ray and you'll see how that would explain his animal magnetism that attracts her. These two men are the reverse sides of the same macho coin. In the scenes where they pull out their penises—merci­fully just off camera—, one is facing away from camera, the other towards it. Cast in that light, Rudyard Kipling offers as good an insight as any­one's into Jess's resolution when he wrote, “The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”


The introduction of a Mosque in this remake brings us a cross-cultural element. According to the Qur'an, THE CHAPTER OF THE TABLE (V. Medinah), “we prescribed to the children of Israel that whoso kills a soul, unless it be for another soul or for violence in the land, it is as though he had killed men altogether.” That is, the murder of one soul is equivalent to killing off the whole human race; there's no more social place for the murderer. DA Morales, how­ever, distinguished between, say, a mass killing in a stadium he wants to prevent (“Mr. Marzin has been a very good friend of this force”), and the collateral damage of a single victim of their guarded snitch.

The Western view of numbers might be represented in this country song:

FASTER HORSES (THE COWBOY AND THE POET) Tom T. Hall – 1975 He was an old–time cowboy, don't you understand. His eyes were sharp as razor blades, his face was leather tan. His toes were pointed inward from a–hangin' on a horse. He was an old philosopher, of course. He was so thin I swear you could have used him for a whip. He had to drink a beer to keep his britches on his hips. I knew I had to ask him about the mysteries of life. He spit between his boots and he replied, "It's faster horses, younger women, Older whiskey, more money."

“Secret” pretty much plays along with this song. We see Marzin at the race­track hanging around the remuda down at the stables. When he's spotted, it's off to the races. In a picture of the office party, Marzin is seen checking out Carolyn the youngest (i.e. prettiest) girl there at just turned 18. He frequents a watering hole catering to base­ball aficionados, with sports memorabilia on every wall. Beck­with rakes in the dough by boosting high end cars. As the song says, “It's faster horses, younger women/ Older whiskey, more money.”

Jess goes by the numbers. In a flashback from 13 years ago, Carolyn gets her mom to approve her dating an older man of maybe 26 when it turns out he's only 22 whom her daughter calls 21. Jess will later commit her­self to catch the murderer no matter how long it takes. Her daughter in the flash­back was wearing a sports shirt with the number 14 on it that's one away from 13. Is this a hint that the murder is going to be resolved in this same 13th year? From the Bible, (Prov. 10:7) “The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.” Carolyn is fondly remembered, but I don't think Jess even wants to say the name of the killer.

Production Values

This movie, “” (2015), is a remake of Argentinean 2010 Oscar winner, ‘El secreto de sus ojos’ (2009) (“Secret in Their Eyes.”) It was written and directed by Billy Ray. Juan José Campanella wrote the original, “El secreto de sus ojos.” This one stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts. Ejiofor is the main star and performs commendably while Roberts with fewer scenes conveys her emotions very well. Kidman is down­played in the script but brings out her character to satisfaction. I think the casting was wrong to play a circum­stantially thwarted romance between Kidman and Ejiofor, because there's just too much on their plate against them to allow for a credible possibility. One of them's engaged (later married), there's office taboos, there is an educational gap (“Harvard Law doesn't date Community College”), and while being racially mixed may not be an ipso facto disqualification any­more, visually a man's Negroid features next to a woman's finely chiselled classic ones doesn't exactly play into the imagination. How­ever, their acting was good, and if the race thing goes right by you, it should be fine. It is, after all, L.A.

MPAA rated “Secret in Their Eyes” PG–13 for thematic material involving disturbing violent content, language and some sexual references—but no outright nudity. The score from Emilio Kauderer holds its own. Since the main players are the same in both time frames that flip flop frequently, it could be hard to follow, but the story will reveal itself if you give it a minute. Ray's beard is sprinkled with gray in the later year, and Jess's hair length changes as well. Supporting investigator Bumpy Willis (Dean Norris) has developed a “limp” later on. If you're a photog­rapher or have a keen eye for photos, you've got it made, because the older year is shot to look flat compared to a fuller looking contemporary one. You'll instantly know when to orient your­self, but you need that discernment to begin with.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Unless you are in the mood for a major argument, I would not recommend taking a date to this picture … excepting you both have carbon copy views on capital punishment. It would be hard to avoid a fight however diplomatic you be. This movie doesn't even work that well for a crime or a mystery, and definitely not for a thriller. The rape scene is also a bit graphic. The romance is a no-go and we're glad for it. Where it does come across in spades is instinctual motivations for bonding. For this reason I like it and recommend it, but I'm easy to please with all kinds of material. If you're set on more standard fare, well I'm sure your movie complex will get some of those by and by.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Video Occasion: None of the Above. Special effects: Well done special effects. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.