Being based on the 2010 Best Foreign Academy Award winning from Argentina, director and writer Billy Ray had a incredibly tough task of making this adaptation relevant to American audiences. He formed a high caliber cast with Chiwetel Ejiofor taking the front role between two powerhouse actresses who had never worked together before, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman. It’s funny how Ejiofor ends up being the actor who’s performance is the only thing holding the film up as this adaptation lacks the drive to make it entirely compelling.
The original film follows a retired lawyer as he looks for resolution on a unresolved homicide from years ago as he tries to write a novel about it. He is also entwined in some unrequited feelings of love towards his superior, at the time, a judge. Ray switches the main focus, as well as the approach of the characters but leaves love subplot, instead making it glaringly obvious in every scene between the two characters.
Billy Ray’s version starts out in New York with Ray (Ejiofor), a private security sector worker and former FBI Counter Terrorism officer, looking through mugshot after mugshot, trying to match it up with a person of interest from an old case. This is cross cut over footage of a brutal rape and murder, the case in question. Ray finds a match between a photo on the database and his picture and the next scene we see Ray in Los Angeles readying himself for a meeting with the district attorney.
The D.A. is Claire (Kidman), someone with whom Ray has a history, being that he fell in love with her at first glance thirteen years earlier when he was an FBI agent and she was second chair to the head of the D.A. Ray is embroiled in the government hysteria of catching terrorists in the post 9/11 initiative of 2002 with his partner and good friend Jess (Roberts). Then a homicide call comes in regarding the area around a mosque their team in investigating.
The call ends up turning everyone’s life upside down as Ray and Jess show up to the crime scene only to see that the victim is Jess’s only daughter. Making it his main mission, and forgoing his own job responsibilities, Ray starts his own deep investigation that leads to a main suspect that is also an informant for the FBI, in the hopes of revealing sleeper cells in America. In short, the suspect is protected by the one system needed to bring him down.
The film goes back and forth between two separate times, sometimes being a little unclear and confusing. There is a gap of 13 years that lie between the two plotlines, Ejiofor almost subtly wearing the grey in the sides of his hair and a bushier beard while Nicole Kidman remains unchanged. Julia Roberts, on the other hand looks like she’s been run through a vigorous washing machine cycle for over a decade. It’s pretty distracting.
The story also tries to use the World Trade Center attacks as it’s crutch to lean on for the 2002 segments of the film but it’s a complete non-point by the 2015 pieces. It’s almost like Billy Ray is really trying to play it up, even having a homeless “Doomsday” crier forcibly yelling as the characters walk by in one scene but having no use for this theme afterwards.
I have to address my dislike of Julia Roberts in almost everything she does but in this film my feelings are completely warranted. She’s completely miscast in this film and spends most of the film with a starkly staring pouting face that is understandable given the circumstances but ends up getting old fast.
At the end of this film I felt neither unhappy with the film or happy with it. Really the film just washed over me with no other effect other than an occupation of two hours of my life. There are some interesting reveals and plot twists in the film but they come off as pretty ineffectual as there wasn’t enough to grasp onto in the first place. Kidman and Roberts must have known this, given their lackluster performances. I give this one a two and a half out of five.