Involving Mystery and Romance
The Secret in Their Eyes, an Argentine film directed by Juan José Campanella, added the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2009 to the list of accolades for this tightly structured, visually conscious, well-acted mystery and love story.
Retired federal justice agent Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín) decides to write a novel about a past case that still haunts him as well as the unresolved feelings he has for his former boss, Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil). Flashbacks tell the story of a young woman raped and murdered, and the subsequent hunt by Benjamín, his associates, and her grieving husband (Pablo Rago) for the killer; all the while Benjamín nurtures a closer relationship with Irene but holds himself back from initiating anything more than a professional relationship with her. The story is involving, the characters are rich, the politics of Argentina are touched upon, and each new development only increases the viewer's interest.
Even when much of what happens seems presposterous, The Secret in Their Eyes makes you believe what's going on. The relative impossibility and/or unlikelihood of certain events was not lost upon me, and yet they were delicious all the same. Campanella knows how to weave his world, and he also has enough ambition to stage a stunt take at a soccer match where the camera dives in from the sky and continues to follow characters into the bowels of the stadium in one minutes-long continuous shot.
The movie is confident in the images it creates (which certainly require a boldness in the use of old-age makeup), in the twists and curves of the story it's telling, and in the delivery of dramatic emphasis and profundities (among them: death is far more merciful than an empty life) -- all without feeling self-conscious or overstated. If The Secret in Their Eyes can be criticized for displaying a depth more pronounced than subtle, it at least puts on a quite satisfying and deft show.
(Released by Sony Classics and rated "R" for a rape scene, violent images, some graphic nudity and language.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.