First Hit: There were some good moments, but it lacked the kind of tenseness to make it interesting.
There are films that do time shifts well and others that do not. This film does not.
When the audience has to work, look for clues, to find out what time period they are in, it takes them out of experiencing the story. This is what happens here, because some of the characters don’t show the 13 year change or difference enough to know what time frame we are in at that moment of the new scene gets presented to the audience. I had to think “what time are they in now?”
The character that was the most difficult was Claire (Nicole Kidman), she was rarely discernable. Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was, at times, discernible between the two different time periods, and other times I had to look hard at his hair or facial features to figure out where the film was. Jess (played by Julia Roberts), however, was easily discernible between the time periods mostly because her grieving and self-made purgatory created a look that was far different than the earlier time period.
This story is about three people, Ray, Claire and Jess who are attempting to capture and prosecute a man Marzin/Beckwith (Joe Cole) who raped and killed Jess’ daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham). It is also about obsession. How people get obsessed with people whether they are, friends, infatuations, or object of an investigation.
Initially the murderer gets off on a technicality but Ray's obsession of finding and trying Marzin, after 13 years of looking, is a good story. When he finds, who he believes is the man, he's convinced the team can put him away this time. The film tells the initial story of Carolyn’s death and the killer getting off, as well as the new road the three take to get Marzin convicted this time around. I did think that Roberts was really good in unglamorous role. The way she wore the pain of the death of her daughter was spot on good.
Kidman was OK, her best part was interviewing Marzin. The sultry, focused, primal nature of her questioning was amazing. Ejiofor was strong however there were too many scenes I didn’t know what time period he was in soon enough – I had to think about it. Kidman was good but besides the interviewing Marzin scene, her role wasn’t dynamic. Dean Norris as Bumpy Willis was the easiest character to know the time span, his role and the makeup did him right. In this role he was very good. Michael Kelly as Reg Siefert was also very good as the antagonistic cop who worked both for and against the main characters during all these years. Billy Ray and Juan Jose Campanella wrote an interesting screenplay but the execution wasn’t quite good enough through Billy Ray’s direction.
Overall: The story good, the execution was less than good which brought down what could have been a better film.