Sony // 2009 // 129 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // September 22nd, 2010
"He can't change his passion..."
The Argentinean film The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto De Sus Ojos) won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2010 Academy Awards, representing one of the rare times that the Academy has made a good decision. Of course, the Academy got it horribly wrong by not nominating Juan José Campanella's film for Best Picture. However, enough talk about irrelevant awards, let's discuss this quietly mesmerizing motion picture, instead.
Retired detective Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) is trying to write a book about a vicious rape and murder of a young woman that he solved 25 years ago. However, while Esposito "solved" the crime, many issues went unresolved, including his feelings for his former colleague Irene (Soledad Villamil). As he tries to settle with the past, more and more events from the old case bubble to the surface. Can Esposito and those involved in the investigation resolve the loose ends and move on, or will they get swallowed-up by the past? Is it already too late?
The Secret In Their Eyes is about the capacity of people to deal with events that cannot be changed. Individuals can trap themselves in the past, living a life of increasingly hazy memories; or, they can move on and live a fulfilling life. Both types of personalities are explored in great detail here.
The heart of the film belongs to Esposito. He can't decide whether he wants to live in the past or the present. The story is told from his conflicted point of view, comprised of flashbacks and contemporary action. The reason for his dilemma is his passion, for justice and Irene. His idea to write a book about the old crime is an attempt to deal with these issues, but writing the book pulls old issues into the present, disrupting current lives.
The other characters have their own passions. Irene, too, has a passion for justice, but also for moving her life, including her career and relationships, ever forward. Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), the husband of the murdered woman, has an undying passion for the deceased love of his life. Isidoro Gomez (Javier Godino), the suspected killer, has passions that include pedestrian and unsavory pursuits. As the passions of the characters interact with each other the story is propelled forward, moving methodically and logically between police procedural and love story. In-between these main story threads are many twists and turns; exploring the themes of friendship, loyalty, corruption, and revenge.
Not wanting to spoil the outcome prevents me from providing further details about the story. But it's a thrilling ride, filled with top-notch performances, especially by Darin as the determined Esposito. Another stand-out is Guillermo Francella as Esposito's alcoholic partner, Sandoval. The rest of the main players: Villamil, Rago, and Godino are similarly terrific. The entire cast has tremendous chemistry with each other. There are no false notes here.
The film is also technically superb, hitting its peak during the absolutely stunning soccer stadium sequence. You'll know it when you see it. The rest of the filming is equally accomplished from the use of long takes to the full utilization of the widescreen format.
The video transfer is strong. The color is good and the detail robust, allowing you to see the wrinkles created by the make-up artists for the aged characters in the contemporary scenes. The 5.1 surround sound is excellent. The dialogue, music, and sound effects are perfectly clear.
The main extra is an excellent commentary by director Campanella. It's a must for film students and cinema buffs. He thoroughly breaks down the film, discussing the themes, color schemes, acting, music, CGI-effects and editing. He gives a lot of information, but he's never boring even though you'll have to read the commentary via subtitles if you don't speak Spanish. The remaining extras are a couple of short featurettes. The first is a behind-the-scenes piece. The second is a collection of audition tapes of some of the supporting actors in the film. The theatrical trailer is also included.
This is a complex movie made for adults. The casting, story, direction, editing, and music all come together to deliver an exceptional experience.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site