There are movies that gently tug at our heartstrings, and then there are those that . And Billy Ray's a heart-wrenching mystery drama, falls squarely into the latter category. The movie is a remake of an Argentinian film from 2009, which, in turn, is an adaptation of a novel. The story has indeed gone through numerous retellings, adapted across different mediums and cultures. But its emotional core has always remained the same. And this unchanging essence has allowed the story to remain a delicate, touching piece to be told with different characters and contexts for different times and audiences. As a result, the American version of has achieved much the same while adding more in terms of an amazing cast and fresh cultural context.
follows FBI detective Ray, played by , whose life is upended when the brutal murder of his colleague's daughter, Carolyn ( Zoe Graham), leaves him haunted and unable to move on. Ray's inability to find justice has poisoned all aspects of his life for the past 13 years, but he is still determined to catch the culprit. The distressed mother and colleague, Jess, is essayed by in a role that is a far cry from . Roberts genuinely looks like she has been grieving for the past 13 years. She is gaunt and has an aura of brokenness to her presence. Rounding out the trio is the ambitious district attorney, Claire, played by . She is cool, calm, and eloquent as ever and is the second half of Ray's unrequited love.
The in time, filling in the audience on the past while keeping them updated with events taking place in the present. Jess' daughter, Carolyn, was brutally raped, murdered, and disposed of in a dumpster beside a mosque. All clues unanimously point toward a man named Marzin ( Joe Cole), who has stalked Carolyn. However, it later turns out that Marzin is an informant for the FBI working to smoke out terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11. And despite his confession of murder, Marzin walks free, thanks to internal politics and "for the greater good" rhetoric.
Cut to the present, and Ray's obsessive, independent investigation has uncovered Marzin's whereabouts. So, he gets the gang together to deliver justice for good. But Ray soon learns that the case isn't as straightforward as he thought. What follows is a layered mystery, with each new twist folding the movie into uncanny shapes until the delicate origami finally unfolds to reveal all the creases. Though the ending answers the worldly what, who, and why questions, about morality, justice, and vengeance. The conclusion is deeply unsettling, leaving the audience with a lingering effect long after the credits have rolled.
The original is set against the backdrop of a politically tumultuous event in Argentina during the late '70s and early '80s. It was a time when thousands of people disappeared without a trace, and no one dared ask any questions. It is this unique and painful historical event that imbues the story with rich symbolism. The convoluted rape-murder case that the movie samples is but a representation of the countless more tragedies muted and forgotten by the state. The political aspect of it all isn't explicit, but it is a poignant reminder to those who are familiar with the national affliction that transpired. The remake has Americanized the cultural context, setting it after the 9/11 attacks. The underlying political backdrop in the remade version is loud, flashy, and more American. It was definitely a necessary change to Amercanize the movie, but sadly, much of the symbolism and substance has gotten lost.
Other than that, there are a few minor changes that adjust the movie to the American context and works to breathe fresh life into the movie. For instance, the Argentinian version has an impressive foot chase scene in a crowded football stadium in the midst of a match. The American version aptly swaps football for baseball. In the original movie, the victim was a total stranger to the protagonist and his team, whereas, in the remake, the victim's death hits harder because she's someone close. The remade version has also trimmed its runtime, making it feel more like a fast-paced thriller rather than the original version, which is more of a slow burn.
The movie's narrative structure juggles two different timelines together. Quite often and unceremoniously, the movie hops from one timeline to another. Initially, viewers can find this unconventional narrative a bit disorienting. The movie is not always explicit about the timelines and relies heavily on the audiences to pick up the clues — added wrinkles, extra strands of gray hair, and so on — and connect the dots. It is definitely a risky decision and might have been a problem for movies with lesser intrigue. But is confident in its strong script, compelling performances, and captivating shots, and it knows that a good story executed well can draw emotional and intellectual investment from its audience. Not all movies are bold enough to treat the audience with the same respect. In this case, though, it was a necessary risk since the movie's story is one that requires deep immersion from the audience to really strike the emotional chords.
And it's a risk that has paid off well. Every dead end, bureaucratic obstruction, and corruption piles up to add layers of frustration upon the protagonist, and it seamlessly transfers onto the viewer. Though Ray's investigative process might be morally questionable, the audience can't help but root for the detective because of how weary they've grown of not receiving satisfactory answers. The movie's story is extremely delicate, a precarious . And this balance is struck with the precision of a master calligrapher, each stroke of the pen etching a tale that doesn't compromise the integrity of either storyline. Both the storylines — romantic and suspenseful — carry an aura of repressed burden that comes from holding on to an unresolved trauma for too long. The ever-brooding detective Ray seeks redemption from his ill-favored love life by obsessing over the cold case. Perhaps it may not be the purest intention behind pursuing justice, but one can no doubt agree that it makes for a fresh, contemplative, and emotionally rich story.