Esther McCarthy reviews Secret in Their Eyes and The Forest
Secret in Their Eyes (15A) **
A Hollywood remake of the Argentinian thriller that won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars a few years ago, the film revolves around the story of a murder mystery that rears its head more than a decade later - not that it’s ever really gone away.
Moving back and forth between timelines thirteen years apart, the movie is anchored by Ray (the consistently good Chiwetel Ejiofor), a man haunted by the brutal murder of his friend Jess’s (Julia Roberts) daughter years earlier.
He has become personally invested, perhaps even obsessed, with tracking down the killer, a man who walked after the case didn’t originally stick, and has now changed his identify and is living a normal life.
Believing he has finally tracked down the man responsible, and convinced he can bring up enough new evidence to revisit the case, he makes contact with the old friends he hasn’t seen since those grizzly events.
They include the still-haunted Jess and Claire (Nicole Kidman), an old crush of Ray’s who has since been appointed to a high-powered and influential legal position.
Can Ray persuade the sceptical Claire to use her power to reopen the case, and the troubled Jess to return to past traumas in a bid to find some peace?
Moreover, can he present enough evidence to persuade other investigators with vested interests to do the right thing?
As the plot outline suggests, Secret in Their Eyes, is a busy film that throws lots of strands at its audience as it sets out to build up the intrigue and mystery of the story.
But it falls apart badly in the second half, throwing red herrings into the mix and failing to pull the story together in any meaningful or cohesive way.
The Forest (15A) **
Don’t go into the woods! is the basic premise behind this jittery horror, which at least tries to build character and back story into the age-old premise.
Dormer is Sara, an American citizen who travels to Japan’s reputedly haunted Aokigahara Forest when she learns her twin sister has gone missing and was last seen setting out for there.
Convinced by instinct that her twin is still alive, she ventures into the vast, remote area with the help of an enigmatic man and a reluctant native guide in a bid to find her.
Despite being warned that the woods is full of the haunted spirits who died there, driven mad by their own and others’ demons, she persists in going off the safer paths.
The films builds well thanks to some nicely jumpy surprises, aided by Dormer’s likeable screen presence and an on-form sound and visual effects team.
But it wobbles badly as it approaches its finale, presenting lots of spooky scenarios but with nowhere really left to go.