The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
18Jun/101

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Danny LIKEIt's funny how sometimes small moments can lead to big ones. Moments in your life that seem isolated and distant can charge forward and become monumental in retrospect.

One of these moments has seized Benjamin Esposito. A former deputy of the court in Buenos Aires, he's retired and finds himself alone and consumed with a passion to write a novel based on one nagging case from two decades earlier. He enlists the memories and help of his former coworker Irene Hastings to try to untangle the mystery.

The case in question involved the brutal rape and murder of a schoolteacher. We watch the younger Esposito take the case, horrified by the situation and determined to bring the killer to justice. After the police chief arrests a pair of construction workers and beats them into a confession, Esposito fights back and begins to launch his own search. Talking with the woman's husband, Morales, he notices a man starring at her maliciously in a number of their old albums, and becomes convinced that he's found the man behind the attack. He can tell because he sees it in the man's eyes.

He gets help from his coworker and friend Pablo Sandoval, a passionate and articulate drunk. Despite their superior's reluctance, the two track the man down and soon find themselves in an intense struggle with him.

The Secret in Their Eyes might sound like a fairly typical crime drama from this description, but the flashback structure and the underlying melancholy of the twin love stories between Esposito and Irene and the dead woman and Morales keep the film emotionally resonant and touching. Both couples (well, except the dead woman) find themselves pondering the sad simple question of, "How do you live a life full of nothing?" which is unromantic on the surface, until you see the look in their eyes.

Last year's winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar, the film also works as a technical triumph. The film has a handful of shots that are unbelievable and, on the surface, technically brilliant. One involves a helicopter shot moving from miles away into a soccer stadium and then ending on the face of one man. Another is an intense tracking shot that follows Esposito and Sandoval as they finally find their killer and the camera follows their chase through its ups and downs: these scenes gain a tempo that gives the film an unstopping and fascinating urgency.

My only problem with The Secret in Their Eyes comes from the opening. Gray and fuzzy scenes at a train station as one man boards a train and the woman on the platform chases after it; we know that the movie will come back to it, and it's presence at the beginning of the film only shows how it supposed to be significant when the moment actually arrives. It's a cheap conceit that does nothing but add to the film's running time.

Otherwise, the movie is technically and emotionally a triumph. The ending especially, which plays not just on the romance and obsessions that the movie has touched upon, but dwells on the ideas of the death penalty, structure, and vengeance without degrading into a simple debate.

Nothing in the movie comes easy; it's all about clues and mysteries both real and imagined, vengeance and loss, and most importantly, what you have to do to bridge those gaps. I cannot recommend this movie enough.

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

This film (IMDB) is currently in theaters.
Directed by Juan José Campanella
Written by Juan José Campanella
Starring Soledad Villamil and Ricardo Darin

Posted by Danny

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  1. Great movie but, just a warning, not a date movie.


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