From the moment criminal court investigator Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) saw the raped and murdered body of a 23 year old woman in 1974, he has been haunted by it, obsessively driven to find the killer in what becomes a personal mission.
Through his conversations with Irene, and through memories stirred while writing the novel, Juan Jose Campanella's The Secret in Their Eyes jumps back and forth between the present (circa 2000) and 1974, as recollections of the crime and manhunt play out. What is always in question, however, is the dubious nature of remembrance, and the havoc that truth vs. conjecture can wreak on our behavior. When obsession enters the game, it’s especially dangerous. And, as Secret hammers home, not only can obsession destroy the object of its focus, but the person who builds up and unleashes it.
Immediately after viewing the body at the crime scene, Esposito sets to the task of obsessed sleuth, returning to the deceased’s apartment and meeting with her husband, Morales (Pablo Rago, a young Al Pacino lookalike). While leafing through Morales’ photo albums, Esposito believes he has found the killer, in a snapshot of an old acquaintance -- Isidoro Gomez (Javier Godino) -- where a secret guilt is revealed through a look in his eyes.
As helmed by Juan Jose Campanella (the director of numerous Law and Order episodes in the U.S.), this winner of the 2009 Best Foreign Film Oscar is at once an artful legal thriller and a slightly stock and cliched TV crime show: Perry Mason Goes to Buenos Aires.
While Secret purports that much of Benjamin’s trouble stems from unrequited love—that of Benjamin's for Irene, and perhaps vice-versa-- there’s an uncomfortable, squirmy sense that he has also fallen in love with the dead girl, and there is something creepily unsettling about the eroticized image of the corpse.
For all its atmospheric grittiness, a suspension of disbelief is required through much of the movie. In a filled-to-the-brim coliseum, the man they’re looking for is miraculously spotted in a crowd of thousands. Miniscule details in photos and letters attained by chance and luck immediately reveal gigantic clues. Offices are piled high with stacks of paper and swimming in chaos, yet somehow just what they’re looking for is right on top in full view.
The Secret of Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) CreditsStarring: Ricardo Darin, Guillermo Francella, Javier Godino, Pablo Rago (II), Soledad Villamil
Directed by: Juan Campanella
Produced by: Vanessa Ragone, Gerardo Herrero, Gerardo Herrero
Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.
Distributors: Sony Pictures Classics