Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Secret In Their Eyes: Grade B


The Secret In Their Eyes (2009)

Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil ,Pablo Rago, Javier Godino; Co-writer and director Juan José Campanella. (Spanish, subtitled).

This academy-award winning Argentine film is a beautiful, thoughtful mystery story that doesn’t know when to end. A retired federal agent (Darín) is writing a mystery novel based on a case he ran 25 years ago. He discusses the manuscript with his boss (Villamil) who was his boss back then too. The movie cuts away to dramatize what happened in the past.

It was a rape-homicide and by examining the victim’s photograph albums, the detective has the intuition that one creepy guy (Godino) who appears in numerous pictures with the dead girl, is a prime suspect. But a nasty superior just wants the case closed so arrests a couple of street thugs and closes the case. Nevertheless, the detective persists and does capture the real bad guy. But the nasty superior lets him go, and worse, puts him on the payroll as a street informer. Meanwhile, everybody but the detective himself realizes that he is falling in love with his boss.

The story goes on and on, with several more endings beyond the two mentioned above. The romantic story, maybe the most compelling of the several strands, gets short shrift. Nobody, not even a detective, could be that dumb about women. But another interesting theme, rather subtle, at least for Americans, is allusion to Argentina’s “Dirty Wars” of the 1970’s. The nasty superior who jails two innocents and hires the killer on his staff represents the corrupt Peron government and the sense of helplessness that ordinary people feel in the face of such abuse of power is palpable. The multiple endings may also reflect that theme.

The acting is very strong, especially by the two romantic leads, and the directing and writing are excellent, especially, again, in the scenes with romantic connections. Cinematography is beautiful and costumes are outstanding. Despite its over-long runtime, this is a consistently engaging film.

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