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Review: ''The Secret in Their Eyes'' (El secreto de sus ojos)

Poster

The money shot in The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) arrives exactly at the middle of the film: From the sky above Buenos Aires, the camera vertiginously swoops down on a bustling soccer stadium during a match, settling on two investigators in the cheering throng as they chase down a murder suspect through the stands, across the field -- even into the bathroom -- without a single visible cut.

You can imagine Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese studying the five-minute sequence frame-by-frame, trying to figure out exactly how Argentine writer-director Juan Jose Campanella (Son of the Bride) pulled it off. The movie is never quite that showy again, but it doesn't need to be. The pyrotechnics in The Secret in Their Eyes, the surprise winner of last week's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race, are of a more quiet, haunting nature.

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Based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri, The Secret in Their Eyes flits back and forth between the present and 1974. The recently retired criminal-court investigator Benjamin (Ricardo Darin), still haunted by the unsolved rape and murder of a young woman 25 years earlier, decides to invest his energy into writing a novel about the case.

When he visits his former supervisor Irene (Soledad Villamil), now a judge, to tell her about his plans, the unspoken mutual attraction is instantly obvious. Through the use of extended flashbacks, The Secret in Their Eyes alternates between the past, in which Benjamin and his alcoholic partner Sandoval (comedian Guillermo Francella) investigate the crime and battle a corrupt bureaucracy, and the present, in which the retiree decides he won't be able to rest until he solves the case.

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Linking the stories is the romantic tango between Benjamin and Irene, played out mostly across their faces and eyes instead of through dialogue. They are kept apart by class and social status, but the heart does not understand such things, and the attraction lingers. Although it is structured like a thriller, and its plot dominated by Benjamin's detective work, The Secret in Their Eyes is really a cautionary tale about the consequences of a life of too much apprehension and propriety.

"How do you live an empty life?'' Benjamin asks near the movie's end. ``How do you live a life that is filled with nothing?'' The hopeful answer is you can't -- but it's never too late to fix things.

The Secret in Their Eyes (***1/2 out of ****) will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Gusman and 1 p.m. Sunday at Regal South Beach as part of the Miami International Film Festival. Director Juan Jose Campanella will attend. Go here for ticket information. The movie will open in South Florida theaters in late April.

Comments

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stuart handysides

Big events colour our lives for many years, sometimes forever. Obsession generates results but, by definition, takes us over. We don't always reach out for what is in front of us. Despite the heavy themes, there were laughs in this movie, and I completely forgot that I was reading the dialogue from subtitles.

Bill

best movie I ever watched. period.

rene peritz

It is unusual to see a film which shows a careful social sensitivity and awareness of how political pressures affect individuals, within the context of a detective story---all the while maintaining a philosophical rambling mode.This mix makes for thoughtful discussion long after the film is over. Yes, "eyes talk" and so does a carefully crafted film.
I wonder if the American version contains all the scenes released in the Argentine one.

Rene Rodriguez

Rene: Yes, the film is being released in the U.S. intact.

Pedro Stelkic

I'm Pedro Stelkic, from Argentina.
I think that if the technical make up of the soccer stadium is to be commented as brilliant, it says very much about the story itself and his moral approach. They are not view as important.
From my point of view it is a film with all the conventionals Hollywood standars for commercial success. Coming from Argentina, is at least worring.
The problem is solved through the "intuition" Darin has about the criminal.
He is so deep in seeing what eyes can tell that has no doubt about him. So the whole scene of Villamil playing to make him talk is unbelievable coming from a lawyer, unless it is a USA lawer I suppose. She si very "smart". When coming to the end justice taken from our own hands is the message. I'm afraid of that. We'll be back 5.000 years. Sorry for my broken english.

nicole

Wow. There is a scene in Fellini's Amarcord where a lady comes out from a cinema saying : It was so beautiful! I cried a lot! . That's what a movie is supposed to be. Not entertain you. Just making you have feelings. And THIS movie was one of THOSE movies.

Stanley Poster

The IMDB synopsis of this film and the various reviews discuss the cutting back and forth between the present and past. But there is a third dimension - the novel. The movie leaves ambiguous what portions of the flashbacks are true and what portions are the novel being written. Some of the reviews suggest that given the personalities of Benjamin and Irene, their relationship would have developed differently, and that the film was unrealistic in this respect. Could it be that their relationship was not realistic because it was actually the invention of the novelist?

Messi

Oh Argentina..
How everything is have to do with a soccer?

They have all! wonderful soccer, tasty food and lots of wonderful tourist sites - and of course - they also made excellent movies!

Daria

Great film. Lovely review does it justice.

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