The Secret in Their Eyes
(El Secreto de sus Ojos)

The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)
Made in: Argentina, Spain
Language: Spanish
Director: Juan José Campanella
Starring: Ricardo Darin, Soledad Villamil, Guillermo Sandoval, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino, Mariano Argento, Carla Quevedo
Year: 2009

Based on the novel La Pregunta de sus Ojos (The Question in Their Eyes) by Eduardo Sacheri

Synopsis: The year is 1999. Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), a retired prosecutor's assistant, is attempting to write a novel based on an unresolved case that has haunted him for the last twenty-five years. The case involved the rape and murder of a young woman named Liliana Coloto (Carla Quevedo), and Esposito's subsequent struggle to put the perpetrator (Javier Godino) behind bars.

Told mostly in flashback, much of the story takes place in 1974 during Argentina's Dirty War. Esposito faces an uphill battle as he and his fellow assistant, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), track the killer from the small town of Chivilcoy to various Buenos Aires neighborhoods.

Their unconventional methods, along with Sandoval's heavy drinking, land them in frequent trouble with Irene Menéndez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil), a tough Cornell University educated DA who has taken over as their department chief.

Complicating matters is the fact that Esposito is infatuated with his new boss, even though she's engaged to another man. Although supportive of their cause, Hastings is often hampered by political maneuverings by Romano (Mariano Argento), a corrupt legal official.

Driven by the devotion of Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), Liliana's devastated husband, Esposito begins examining the purpose of his own empty life. Before long, his obsession with solving the case becomes just as important as his inward soul searching.

The Good: The Secret in Their Eyes is a compelling, emotionally genuine story. Not only is the plot intriguing, but the character development is strong as well. The cast is simply excellent, and the acclaimed Ricardo Darin gives a powerful, underscored performance as the weary but passionate Esposito.

Also notable is the performance of comedian Guillermo Francella as the drunk but unconventionally wise Sandoval. Francella blends humor and genuine humanity to his character, and the chemistry between him and Ricardo Darin is perfect. Rounding out the trio is a fantastic performance by Soledad Villamil as the tough Hastings.

The deeper themes of The Secret in Their Eyes, regarding self reflection through observing the dramatic life experiences of others, is thought-provoking and moving. Its presentation in the film is simple to follow, yet implies scores of emotional implications in the characters.

The story is also full of believable plot turns, and director Juan José Campanella (who has also directed many episodes of popular American TV shows such as House and Law & Order) keeps the film unpredictable until the very end. Watch for a very exciting sequence that takes place during a soccer match...

The Bad: Be warned that some DVD copies have pretty sloppy English subtitles (with goofy spelling/grammatical errors).

Who would like this film: All in all, The Secret in Their Eyes is highly satisfying, and well deserving of its Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film and multiple accolades.

It has a few explicit scenes, so be aware that the movie doesn't shy away from the seriousness of its subject matter. Also, it'll be helpful to be knowledgeable of Argentina's Dirty War under former president Isabel Martínez de Perón (Juan Perón's VP and third wife).

I highly recommended this for fans of foreign films, as well as those who appreciate a strong, intelligent murder mystery.

(4 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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