Secret in Their Eyes

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Secret in Their Eyes Movie Poster Image
Missed opportunities in flat, violent thriller.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 111 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Motivations that seem selfless can also be somewhat selfish.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters work to serve justice, although not always to the letter of the law. They're flawed and have many traits that aren't especially admirable.


Dead body shown; characters die. Brief images of a violent struggle; a little blood. Chasing, punching (sometimes with brass knuckles), kicking. A man is hit with a shovel. Fire. Guns and shooting. A man breaks a leg. Dog biting, off-screen dog-kicking. Violent imagery in a comic book. Man held prisoner.


Flirting between one character and another who's married; a kiss on the cheek. A character shows his penis to both a man and a woman (nothing graphic seen). Some strong innuendo. Some imagery that objectifies women. A man accidentally rips a woman's blouse; some cleavage shown.


One use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "bitch," "ass," "moron," "d--k," and "hell," plus "Jesus" and "God" (as exclamations).


Schlitz poster seen. Twinkies mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Secret in Their Eyes is a thriller about a very personal murder; it's a remake of the same-named 2010 Best Foreign Language Oscar winner, and both films were based on a novel by Eduardo Sacheri. There's violent imagery, including a dead body and some chasing, beating, and intense fighting, with a little blood shown. Guns are used, and characters die. Characters flirt, and there's some strong sexual innuendo and imagery that objectifies women. Language includes one use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "bitch," and more. The film has some big stars -- including Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman -- but it's not very engaging, and younger teens probably won't be interested.

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What's the story?

In the months after 9/11, Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts) are assigned "terrorist" duty, monitoring the comings and goings around a local mosque. One day, they discover Jess' daughter, murdered, her body left in a nearby Dumpster. But even with help from new district attorney Claire (Nicole Kidman), the prime suspect walks away, thanks to the complex politics of the time. Thirteen years later, Ray has spent all his free time combing mug shots and thinks he's finally found the killer. He enlists a few old friends, like agent "Bumpy" (Dean Norris), to track him down. But even now, there are some who don't want the murderer found.

Is it any good?

A remake of a 2009 Argentinian movie that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, the American version has some fine performances and atmospheric touches, but it feels flat and by-the-numbers. The most important factors -- namely the tense, paranoid politics occurring after 9/11, as well as the intense personal agonies suffered by the three lead characters -- get only surface treatment from writer/director Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Breach). A better movie might have tried some sly commentary, as well as burrowing more deeply into the characters.

Clearly, the movie is more focused on the murder story -- and on keeping the 2002 and 2015 timelines straight. All three of the leads, as well as supporters Norris and Alfred Molina, do a fine job with what they have, finding drama in the nooks and crannies of the investigation. But the whole thing feels more like a business decision, an attempt to revive some Oscar glory, than an attempt at good storytelling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Secret in Their Eyes' violence. What affect does it have? Which parts are thrilling, and which are shocking? How much is shown and not shown? Do different types of media violence have different impact?

  • What are the characters' sexual relationships like? Do characters overstep their bounds, or are they respectful? Who decides what the boundaries are? How is sex portrayed overall?

  • What does the movie have to say about life after 9/11? How were things done differently?

  • Jess makes a fateful decision at one point in the movie. Do you agree with what she did?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and thrills

Themes & Topics

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