During the last Academy Awards, there were a few upsets. Precious and The Hurt Locker were technically underdogs in their respected screenplay categories. The biggest surprise was the Best Foreign Film winner The Secret in Their Eyes. It wasn’t seen by a lot of critics at the time so it didn’t receive a lot of press at the time. Now it is being released in more theatres and people are able to decide for themselves whether it’s better than The White Ribbon or A Prophet.
Surprisingly, it is. There is joy in finding a movie that is so well constructed. This movie uses a very interesting narrative structure to tell its story. Ricardo Darín (Nine Queens) plays Benjamin Espósito, a federal justice agent who is looking back at a case that occurred several decades ago. He wants to write a novel about his experiences working on it. He looks to his friend Irene (Guillermo Francella) to help him remember what happened. She is more hesitant than Hastings.
The case is the rape and murder of a beautiful young woman. Espósito doesn’t know why he’s so compelled to this case but he is determined to solve it. He has to go through his corrupt system and his alcoholic partner, Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella). Despite being a bit unstable it is Sandoval who ends up clarifying the way to find the guy: you can hide a lot of things about yourself, but you can’t hide your passion.
Passion is seen through many lights. It fuels the motivation of all of the characters and each one is done masterfully. There is suspense not only in the mystery aspect of the plot but seeing how certain relationships will ultimately play out. The film teases thanks to it jumping back and forth in time and occasionally having an untrusting narrator. Every single aspect of this movie is well thought out and appears to be effortless. Nothing is an accident ranging from Sandoval’s frequent trips to the bars to even the unique typewriter that’s used. It’s so satisfying to see everything tie together.
It’s not just the plotting that excels in this story but everything gels well. The acting, especially from the leads, was fantastically subtle. They really succeeded in portraying the characters from two different ages. They were able to show a different level of tension with the plot and they easily conveyed how long they were friends from a given point.
Just to single out one scene, there is absolutely incredible scene at a soccer game. It appears to just be one flowing shot that goes from an aerial shot, into the stands, and then into a powerful footrace. I know there has to be some tricky editing in there, but it really looked like one impossible shot.
The film comes together in a very satisfying conclusion while still leaving a lot to process. Easily one of the best mystery films in several years.
With the bonus features, there are two short featurettes. One is a five-minute “making of” where a few cast members talk about the theme of the movie but most of the time just shows film clips. The other one shows some of the auditions for the smaller characters and that was pretty interesting. Aside from the theatrical trailer, all that was left was a commentary track by director Juan José Campanella. It’s a very good commentary that really shows how intelligent he is when it comes to visual storytelling. His comments on creating a sense of memory through color are fascinating.
Film: 4.5 Yaps
Extras: 3.5 Yaps