Secret in Their Eyes

November 29, 2015 - Julia Roberts looks and acts like anything but a pretty woman in this mystery thriller based on an Oscar-wining 2009 Argentinian film of the same name. Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games) adapted the screenplay and directs. Daniel Moder (a.k.a. Mr. Julia Roberts) handles the cinematography. In addition to Roberts, the cast includes Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Dean Norris, and Alfred Molina.

Roberts plays Jess Cobb, a detective with the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. In 2002, she's assigned to the Counterterrorism unit, which includes another detective nicknamed Bumpy (Norris) and an FBI liaison Ray (Ejiofor). The team is keeping their eyes on a mosque, which they suspect may be a front for a terror cell. Ray is also keeping his eyes on Claire (Kidman), a newly arrived Assistant District Attorney. They flirt, but she's already engaged.

One day, the body of a young woman is found in a dumpster near the mosque. She's been raped and murdered. The Counterterrorism team is called in case there's a connection to the mosque. When Ray looks at the body, he realizes it's Jess's daughter, Carolyn. Not long after, he realizes that the killer may be a confidential informant who's been giving another detective inside info about the goings on at the mosque.

In the post-9/11 DA's office, terrorism trumps murder, and the investigation into Carolyn's death is stonewalled. But 13 years later, Ray thinks he has new information that can finally help them arrest the CI and close the case. He returns to Los Angeles, only to find answers that he really did not expect.

Overall review: *** Maybe not quite worth three stars, but I think it deserves more than two. Roberts gives Jess a haunted look – baggy clothes, no makeup, hair that looks as though she cuts it herself. She shows little emotion and speaks mostly in a monotone. The emotional spark is provided by Ray. Like Jess, he never got over Carolyn's murder, and eventually we find out why. Kidman does okay as Claire, despite a little difficulty in totally overcoming her Australian accent.

The movie continually shifts between 2002 and 2015 to tell the story. Hairstyles and other physical characteristics make keeping track fairly easy. It's not a great film, but it's not an awful way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday.