Movie Review

What would you do?

For FBI investigator Ray Kasten, there was no second choice.

Thirteen years ago he and his team were called in on a murder investigation. And when he peered into the back alley dumpster where the unfortunate rape victim had been left ... his life changed. The young woman tossed carelessly in the trash was someone he knew. Someone he cared about. She was the teen daughter of his fellow investigator Jessica Cobb. And it was horrible.

It was particularly horrible because it was his fault.

He had promised this young lady, Carolyn, that he would meet her at a bakery to help pick out a birthday cake for her mom. But he didn't show because of some paperwork that needed doing. And that was where she was snatched. She was snatched, raped and brutally murdered. Bleached inside and out to destroy any evidence. Dumped like so much ...

They almost had the killer at one point. But because of some internal political shenanigans at the district attorney's office, the evildoer was cut loose. He was left to disappear into the mist. And that's been eating Ray up ever since.

But a grim guy like that doesn't just disappear. Not really. And a predator like that doesn't change his stripes, either. His ugly, nasty passions will always be the same. "Passions are like maps," Jess once told him. And if you keep looking long enough they'll lead you right to the guy you're looking for.

So Ray just kept looking. For 13 years. The criminal justice system has some 696,000 inmate photos on file. And Ray's been going through every single one of them. A stack every night. Night after night. And then he finds him. He knew he would! He knew he didn't have any other choice.

What would you have done?

Positive Elements

Even though his passion becomes something of a damaging double-edged sword, Ray truly does want to bring Carolyn's killer to justice—as much for the sake of his completely devastated friend, Jess, as for himself. And he is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to make that happen. There's also a certain passion that Ray has for a woman named Claire in the DA's office. She is obviously attracted to him as well. But the two keep their distance out of respect for her engagement and, years later, her marriage.

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Carolyn's body is found fully clothed, but with her skirt in disarray. A woman wears a revealing sports bra and shorts while jogging. We see an oversized poster that focuses on a woman's cleavage. While baiting a criminal, Claire goads the guy about his masturbation habits and the size of his manhood. He stares at her cleavage and then exposes himself to her (just out of the frame). A sexual quip or two are made.

Violent Content

The film makes it clear that sometimes grief and a desire for what's right can be twisted into something very dark in our souls. And we see that play out in a physically torturous way for one individual.

We're shown Carolyn's rape and murder in several quick flashbacks. (We see her being choked and roughly manhandled.) In the course of the murder investigation, a number of men are shot (one bleeds out in a large pool of blood); one is kicked, hit with a shovel and a gun butt, and punched with brass knuckles. A suspected criminal is beaten bloody after he grabs at Claire and backhands her across the face. Ray pushes a barbell down on another agent's neck and then punches the man in the face. We see someone get hit with a baton, kidnapped, thrown into the truck of a car, and then shot several times at pointblank range (that last part just offscreen). A police officer jumps off a high ledge and breaks his leg.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and three or four s-words join several uses each of "a--hole," "h---" and "b--ch." God's and Jesus' names are abused six or eight times (God's is twice combined with "d--n"). Crude references are made to male genitalia.

Drug and Alcohol Content


Other Negative Elements

We see political corruption in action as someone in authority destroys evidence.


Based on an Oscar-winning Argentinean drama, this is a film that's uncomfortable and sometimes downright difficult to watch. But that's not so much because of the nastiness thrown up on the screen. There's crude language and violence here, to be sure. But the full foul reality of the brutal rape and murder at the core of this story is kept, thankfully, just outside our view. What's truly disturbing, then, is what this movie shows us about ourselves: our own dark human nature.

Secret in Their Eyes is interested in the aftermath of something horrible. It closely examines the turn-on-a-spit passions of various people on the outside edges of a heinous crime—those who loved most and are now consumed by a very understandable anguish. They're people like us who continue to live day by day and year by year while fiercely grasping coal-hot agonies of regret, guilt, hate and a desperate thirst for vengeance.

So in a way—if looked at with the right tilt of the head—you could almost see this movie as a well-made illustration before a spiritual message. It's a lesson that could never be shown in Sunday school, of course. But its characters scream out their need for grace and forgiveness. They ache for that drop of water on a burning tongue that's just outside their reach and understanding.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes



Readability Age Range



Chiwetel Ejiofor as Ray; Nicole Kidman as Claire; Julia Roberts as Jess; Dean Norris as Bumpy Willis; Alfred Molina as Martin Morales; Michael Kelly as Reg Siefert; Zoe Graham as Carolyn Cobb


Billy Ray ( )


STX Entertainment



Record Label



In Theaters

November 20, 2015

On Video

February 23, 2016

Year Published



Bob Hoose

Content Caution

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