When the 2009 Oscars happened, there were a lot of shockers. Hurt Locker beating out Avatar, Precious winning best adapted screenplay over Up in the Air. But the biggest shocker for me was the fact that The White Ribbon didn’t win Best Foreign Language Film. I thought the movie was stupendous, flawless, and a masterpiece. It had all the buzz to go with it too, my personal pick was A Prophet which I would have been extremely happy if won. But neither won and some Argentinian movie that I had never heard of won, The Secret In Their Eyes. From that point on I was curious to see it, and now my curiosity has been filled, the verdict? You’ll have to read and find out.The Secret In Their Eyes is a detective, thriller, romance, and even a comedy at parts. It has all the elements for a great film, and it pulls it off miraculously. The Secret In Their Eyes is about Detective Benjamin Esposito (played by Ricardo Darin) who has now retired, and with his retirement he wants to write a book. He plans to base his book off the Morales case; a case he investigated 25 years ago that ended with a lot of questions unanswered. The case was of a girl who was raped and murdered and the things they uncover are of epic proportions. The movie jumps back and forth between when the investigation took place and while Benjamin tries to recall the events which took place. There is also a side plot in which Benjamin falls for his younger, and wealthier, boss Irene Hastings (played by Soledad Villamil).
The plot may sound complex and it is, it’s full of rich creative writing and is definitely the best part of the movie. The movie also contains amazing direction, good acting, great cinematography, art direction, costume design, and many other things. This is a great movie, but how great?
The first aspect of the movie I am going to critique is the direction. The film was masterfully directed by Juan Jose Campanella, and this was his first feature length that he has done in a long while. Juan’s skills behind the camera are undeniably great, everything about it is terrific. From the simple shots to the most complex, all have a powerfulness behind it so strong it only enhances the movies greatness. He furthers the excellent story on it’s journey and helps it unfold, never taking anything away from it. His skills behind the camera remind me a lot of Alfonso Cuaron and the work he did in one of my all time favorites Children of Men (2006). It has a gritty feeling to it, and the camera seems to be in constant motion, but not shaky cam. I HATE SHAKY CAM!
But the most impressive scene in the movie is due to the direction. It’s a single cut shot, definitely my favorite kind of shot in movie history, five minutes or so of perfection. It starts with an overhead view of a soccer stadium with load, roaring fans, and it slowly pans in. We eventually get to Benjamin and his partner Pablo (amazingly played by Guillermo Francella) as they believe the prime suspect will be there. They shift through the crowd and finally they find the man their looking for. From there on goes a high-speed on foot pursuit of the suspect, going into a bathroom, jumping off a balcony. The whole scene is the high point of the movie, and the intensity is cranked up to 11. The camera is all one cut and could get shaky at times, but it doesn’t matter here. Every single moment in it is pure intensity, my jaw little dropped in awe. Brilliantly crafted scene.
The acting is great in this movie. Ricardo Darin is a good lead. He plays both young and old Benjamin, the young is a fiery detective who seeks the truth. The old is a worn out man with a solemn look in his eye he wants to recall the past, and at the same time forget it. The role takes skill to play, and he does well. He doesn’t really give anything memorable per say, but he does his job, and in the end of the day that’s what counts right? He has been called a Pacino like actor, and it makes sense, well a young Pacino. He definitely has the chops to be a great actor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a huge star in Argentina. There are some dramatic moments but it seems like he is always in the same mood, except for when he is in awestruck by his love interest that will never happen. A good performance, but not great.
The supporting cast is pretty good too. Soledad Villamil is good as Benjamin’s boss and his “Juliet”. She like Ricardo really does nothing memorable, but does the part right. Her character is similar too, a young and old, fiery and worn out. The real highlights though come from the three supporting men. Guillermo Francella, Benjamin’s partner and the hilarious comic relief in the movie, Pablo Rago as Riacardo Morales, the husband of the victim, and Javier Godino as Gomez, the prime suspect. Now Guillermo definitely deserved an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, he is phenomenal. Everything he does is like magic on the screen, he’s funny and can be completely serious. One scene in which he gets completely dramatic is heartbreaking, because the plays the part so well. He is the character, he made me believe that that was really him, and I fell in love. Pablo is also heartbreaking, but that’s what the character is. He pulls out your heart strings and doesn’t let go. I remember his face still, every single expression, just a brilliantly played part. Now Javier Godino was more of a physcically role, because he didn’t speak much, but he just looked the part, and that was good enough for me.
The movie was written by Juan Jose Campanella and Eduardo Sacheri, who wrote the book in which this is based off of. The story is definitely one of the best of the year, maybe the decade. It has all the elements of a great movie, comedy, thrills, suspense, romance, and it blends it so perfectly in a story that is engaging from start to finish. I was interested the whole movie, even though it did feel a tad bit long. I was completely interested and wanted it to keep going while watching. This is a story for the ages, the makings of a classic, this would be a classic if it came out 60 years ago or so. It’s a story so familiar, that is works in being unconventionally different. It’s a brilliant story and maybe even deserved the award for Best Adapted screenplay.
Overall this is a fantastic movie. It is at number 5 of my top 10 of 2009, and a movie that I would love to watch again and again. It’s a powerful story with amazing direction, and a good cast, and just great technical wise. It has great cinematography and art direction to go with it. A brilliant movie, and a must see.