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With its back-and-forth time jumps, hidden agendas and twists in waiting, “Secret in Their Eyes” is prime thriller material.

It should be. Writer-director Billy Ray is adapting the Oscar-winning 2009 Argentine film “El Secreto de sus Ojos” and he keeps most of that film’s momentum while Americanizing the story.

It begins in 2002, when the nation is still gripped with post 9/11 hysteria. A task force of Los Angeles investigators and an FBI Agent named Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have an informant in a local mosque and think something big is going down.

Ray has made friends with Jess (Julia Roberts), an investigator, but has romantic eyes for a prosecutor named Claire (Nicole Kidman), who is, unfortunately, engaged. When a call comes in reporting a murder near the mosque, Ray and Jess run to the scene. Unfortunately, the victim they find there is Jess’s teen daughter (Zoe Graham from “Boyhood”).

Ray and a pal (Dean Norris) do some off-the books sleuthing and come up with a strong suspect (Joe Cole). Problem is, that suspect is also the snitch from the mosque. An innocent takes the fall for the killing and eventually Ray’s suspect disappears.

Flash forward 13 years and an obsessed Ray thinks he’s found his old suspect. But does Jess want to dredge up all that old pain? And will Claire prosecute based on Ray’s hunches? Moreover, will Ray and Claire finally succumb to the romance they passed up long ago?

The romance feels a bit like filler, but the twists are heady. And Roberts, bearing no hint of youth or glamour, brings a stark power to her supporting role that resembles nothing she’s done before. “Secret in Their Eyes” may well end up buried beneath the season’s blockbusters and awards fare, but it’s well worth seeking out.

tlong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘Secret in Their Eyes’

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving disturbing violent content, language and some sexual references

Running time: 111 minutes

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