Noomi Rapace’s role as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” trilogy made her a household name in her home country and an international star. But despite roles in “Prometheus”, the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel, and “Jack Ryan”, Rapace has yet to achieve that same level of fame stateside. Unfortunately, her new film, “The Secrets We Keep”, is not going to be her long-awaited breakout moment.
Rapace stars as Maja, a housewife living a comfortable life in post-World War II America with her doctor husband (Chris Messina) and young son. Her suburban tranquility is uprooted when she realizes a new neighbor (Joel Kinnaman) was part of a group of German soldiers who tortured her during the war. Desperate to learn the truth about her capture, Maja kidnaps her unsuspecting neighbor and imprisons him in her basement.
As her tormented past and present collide, Maja is forced to relive her trauma and confront the fact that she never told her husband about this prior life. Her husband, in turn, is torn between his love for his wife, his duties as a physician and a creeping suspicion about whether or not his wife is enacting revenge on an innocent man — a man who swears he had nothing to do with the war and pleads to be reunited with his family. This web of conflicts and lies all results in a multitude of moral dilemmas and a fascinating premise.
Rapace is, as always, a magnetic screen presence, both in her tense confrontations with Kinnaman and her tender moments with Messina. Rapace and Kinnaman’s scenes together are the strongest of the film. She succeeds in making you feel the pain of her own imprisonment while she, herself, becomes a reluctant captor. Kinnaman does a good job casting doubt on Maja’s allegations. He is convincing as an innocent man and also as someone hiding something deeply sinister. Chris Messina gives the real standout performance of “The Secrets We Keep” as a torn man forced to wrestle with the secrets of others. His doubt becomes the audience’s doubt, and his performance is gripping when paired with Rapace’s emotional anguish.
While Rapace, Messina and Kinnaman are terrific, the problem lies in the fact that the rest of “The Secrets We Keep” simply doesn’t match their power. What could — and should — have been an exploration of trauma, grief, marriage and the horrors of World War II is, instead, a weak, surface-level and predictable thriller.
“The Secrets We Keep” is director and writer Yuval Adler’s third feature film, and it carries that mark of inexperience throughout its execution from chunky dialogue to sequences that lack tension and purpose. The climactic moments fail to pack a punch, leaving the film with an unsatisfying conclusion and the viewer wanting depth that never arrives. Fans of this trio will enjoy the performances housed within “The Secrets We Keep” but, in truth, the film feels like a second-rate imitation of WWII films we’ve seen before.