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Secret in Their Eyes: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Secret in Their Eyes (2015) movie poster Secret in Their Eyes

Theatrical Release: November 20, 2015 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Billy Ray / Writers: Billy Ray (screenplay); Juan José Campanella, Eduardo Sacheri (film El Secreto De Sus Ojos)

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor (Ray Kasten), Nicole Kidman (Claire Sloane), Julia Roberts (Jessica Cobb), Dean Norris (Bumpy Willis), Alfred Molina (Martin Morales), Joe Cole (Marzin, Clay Beckwith), Michael Kelly (Reg Siefert), Zoe Graham (Carolyn Cobb)

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Accomplished screenwriter Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, Captain Phillips, Flightplan) occupies the director's chair for the third time on Secret in Their Eyes, an English language remake of the 2010 Foreign Language Film Oscar winner, Argentina's El secreto de sus ojos.

The film operates in two time periods: around Christmas in the present day and in 2002, when a shocking tragedy changes the lives of several of our principal characters. It jumps between these two timelines, sometimes without warning, making it necessary to pay attention to the male characters' hairlines and hair colors.

Three colleagues (Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor) consider taking justice into their own hands in "Secret in Their Eyes."

In 2002, Los Angeles-based FBI investigator Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works alongside Jess Cobb (Julia Roberts), his partner in banter. Both report to Claire Sloane (Nicole Kidman),
a Harvard-educated supervisor whom Ray has eyes for. Things take a bleak turn when a teenaged victim of a vile rape and murder is immediately identified by Kasten as Jess' beloved daughter Carolyn (Boyhood's Zoe Graham).

Thirteen years later, the search for justice continues. Claire, now a district attorney, is reluctant to reopen the case and dredge up the horrors that the now haggard Jess has never gotten over. Meanwhile, Kasten has reason for all to take another look at the evidence. Having looked at thousands of images a night every night for the past twelve years (evidently facial recognition software does not exist for law enforcement in this world), Kasten, who now works as head of security for the New York Mets, believes he has found the young suspect who was never prosecuted for Carolyn's rape and homicide.

The reasons for that failure to prosecute are complicated, but involve some trepidation over the suspect's status as an FBI informant who is working to uncover a terrorist sleeper cell functioning out of a closely-watched LA mosque. Kasten's colleagues (led by Alfred Molina) vow not to let a murderer roam freely, but they are not nearly as convinced as Kasten is of the suspect's guilt and are hesitant to jeopardize their intensive, drawn-out counterterrorism efforts designed to prevent another 9/11 attack from befalling LA.

In the present day, a graying Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) remains determined to ease his former partner's pain by solving her daughter's murder.

Secret in Their Eyes is an unremarkable procedural hindered by a perplexing villain, a not particularly interesting assortment of red tape, and a laughable handling of our lead characters.
Kasten and Claire don't just butt heads over protocol, but over an unrequited romance that the movie is determined to see through at length. Contemplation of revenge, retribution, and true justice obviously has some relevant value here, but the movie repeatedly tables those themes to give chase at Dodgers Stadium, to peruse a comic book the suspect created in his stripper girlfriend's home, and to preposterously and irreversibly rip open Claire's blouse with a not so firm touch of her arm.

You suspect the movie is leading to some twists and indeed it is, two of them. They're not the kind that suddenly cast everything that has transcended in a new light, though they do render a good part of the plot unnecessary. Nor do they tie everything together and make you understand why the movie did what it did, like weaving between those dual chronologies and presenting them in such a way that it's easy to mistake one time period for the other.

The filmmaker's fact-based first two directorial efforts -- the 2003 journalism drama Shattered Glass starring Hayden Christensen and the 2007 political thriller Breach -- have their admirers. Secret, however, is unlikely to join them, not when it is certain to be compared to a recent film esteemed enough to rank in the middle of IMDb's All-Time Top 250. The cast of this US remake includes two actresses who have held on to leading lady status longer than almost anyone but Meryl Streep. There's also Ejiofor, whose fewer years of clout were cemented by his lead role in 2013 Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave. Seeing the three of them and other respected actors like Molina, Dean Norris, and Michael Kelly assembled here in a movie unspooling in theaters just before Thanksgiving gives Secret the illusion of being an awards season contender. It was not.

As expected, the film was a non-factor commercially as well, barely grossing $20 million domestically and not faring particularly well in any foreign market. Secret was only the second film released by STX Entertainment, a studio founded in 2014 by Robert Simonds, a veteran producer of Adam Sandler and Steve Martin comedies. The studio's debut, the Joel Edgerton thriller The Gift, performed quite well with critics and moviegoers when it opened last August. This one, however, faced much stiffer competition both between the megaplex event movies like Spectre and the final Hunger Games and actual adult-oriented Oscar contenders like Spotlight and Brooklyn that were then popping up in metropolises now and sure to keep expanding. Unless your appreciation for the cast compels you to support their every project, there was no reason to see Secret over the better films playing in the same theaters.

Hitting Blu-ray combo pack and DVD last week from STX video partner Universal, Secret is even worse on a second viewing, the knowledge of its twists and mysteries casting nearly its every move as a pointless exercise and meaningless misdirect.

Secret in Their Eyes: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


Secret in Their Eyes displays a cinematic polish befitting its talent. It is well-presented in the Blu-ray's sharp, vivid 2.40:1 transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix gets the job done while rarely commanding notice. English SDH and two standard foreign translation subtitles are supplied, though no dubs are.

"Adapting the Story for Today's World" shows behind-the-scenes glimpses of production. Julia Roberts demonstrates she is capable of far more glamour than she shows in the film in this bonus feature.


On Blu-ray and DVD, Secret in Their Eyes is joined by two short featurettes and an audio commentary.

"Adapting the Story for Today's World" (1:59)

has screenwriter-director Billy Ray and others discuss the original film's remake potential, with a tad of delusion.

"Julia Roberts Discusses Her Most Challenging Role" (3:23) complements interviews of the actress and her collaborators with behind-the-scenes footage and a longer than necessary film clip showing off her acting.

Finally, director-screenwriter Billy Ray and producer Mark Johnson supply an audio commentary over the entirety of the film. Recorded back in November, the two are both proud of the movie and seemingly unprepared for the criticism the film would face. Ray acknowledges that the character Ray should have had more white hair in the present day to establish the chronology more clearly. His passion not yet dulled by experience, he explains everything from locations and settings to decisions he made. They mention deleted scenes you won't find on the disc.

The discs open with trailers for Desierto, The Danish Girl, Steve Jobs, Spotlight, Suffragette, and Trumbo. None of these are accessible by menu and Secret's trailer isn't included at all.

The menu scores a slightly retooled version of the monochromatic cover and poster art. The disc does enable you to resume unfinished playback of the film.

The two plainly labeled discs and Digital HD with UltraViolet insert share a keepcase topped by an embossed slipcover reproducing the same artwork.

District attorney Claire Sloane (Nicole Kidman) takes to a parking garage in "Secret in Their Eyes."


Secret in Their Eyes may put a lot of talent in front of the camera, but this procedural relies too heavily on twists, unnecessary dual chronologies, and outlandish character arcs to even come close to satisfying as a mystery/drama. Universal's Blu-ray combo pack offers fine picture and sound plus an unremarkable handful of extras. This wouldn't really warrant a look at any season, but it's especially outclassed at a time when all the awards contenders are coming to disc.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: My All American • Black Mass • I Smile Back • Creed • The 33 | 2015 Mysteries: Every Secret Thing • Dark Places
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Dirty Pretty Things • Salt • Amistad • Kinky Boots | Julia Roberts: August: Osage County • Eat Pray Love
Nicole Kidman: Strangerland • The Paperboy • The Railway Man • Paddington • Margot at the Wedding
Dean Norris: Men, Women & Children • Sons of Liberty • The Counselor • Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season | Zoe Graham: Boyhood
Screenplay by Billy Ray: The Hunger Games • Captain Phillips • Flightplan

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Reviewed March 1, 2016.

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