Saturday, February 19, 2011

"The Secret in Their Eyes" (Language - Spanish) (2009) - Movie Review

You cannot alter a person’s passion says one of the characters about a killer they are in hunt for. He is not talking about the psychopath’s passion for killing but something else which would pave way for the greatest thrilling scene in the film. This is the Argentinean movie “The Secret in Their Eyes” starring Ricardo Darin who provided some brilliant performances in late Fabian Bielinsky’s David Mamet styled con film “Nueve Reinas” and a fantastic moody noir film “El Aura”. He is agent Esposito and this is a murder mystery intertwined with drama and beauty.

A story about a murder is more about the people finding the culprit than the culprit themselves. David Fincher’s “Seven” and “Zodiac” made it clear and disturbing. The latter of those Fincher’s classics undeniably brought the whole web of people dedicating their love and life for that obsessive answer for the riddle they could not solve. Juan Jose Campanella’s film does not go into the details of the investigation. It begins with Esposito in his old age trying to make sense of his life and begins to write a novel. If a person has no family to be left to mimic his existence after his death, there can always be a novel of his life story for a final attempt in remembrance.

Esposito refuges for the aforementioned attempt. He meets up with Judge Irene Menendez Hastings (Soledad Villamil). In this process he brings out the deadly case of rape and murder of Liliana Colotto (Carla Quevedo). They never openly talked about the case. It brings sudden shadows of fear and sorrow on Irene’s face. So we go through the lines of Esposito writing his novel and we learn about the investigation. But we learn more about the belief of Esposito on the love he saw in the eyes of Liliana’s husband, Morales (Pablo Rago). In those eyes he saw his passionate untold love for Irene whom he works for.

There are sudden impulses which leads to the killer. One such is the initial break Esposito finds in the old photos Morales shows. There is this spooky, lean and creepy man Isidoro Gomez (Javier Godino) looking lustfully over Liliana in all those photos. Esposito does not need any more evidence and he goes for it making rash decisions. He tumbles and stumbles with the other superiors and colleagues resulting in spur of events that would cause “The Secret in Their Eyes” a different film altogether in this genre.

The relationship of Esposito with Irene, his best buddy and colleague Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) and Morales forms the tale of thrill, revenge, justice and existence. Esposito and Irene are ridiculously in love but unable to tell about it as Irene is well educated and comes from a wealthy family and ready to marry the society approved groom and Esposito is a hard working guy climbing his way from the bottom. Their conversations are sparked by their passion for the justice and hindered by it too.

The best of all comes between the chemistry between the men in this film. Esposito’s best friend Pablo is a drunk but has the right mind for finding the trail leading to the killer. Esposito tries his best to get his friend on right track but there are friends who you have the burden of watching them drown themselves and you have nothing else to do than watch it. Here Pablo goes on a spiral and Esposito stands there waiting for his skillful friend to be sober for a moment at least to investigate the killer.

The other one is Esposito’s drive for the case in Morales. Morales is obviously devastated and crushed by the horrendous rape and murder of his wife but has a clear set of expectation on justice. He does not want death to the killer for revenge but the proper offer of the life the killer has to provide which is the solitude and the aimless years of living in a cage. Morales’ transformation from grieving husband to a man at peace is what makes “The Secret in Their Eyes” a more meaningful murder mystery.

Felix Monti’s cinematography is nothing like I have seen. It is the most original camera work in years using the technique to capture the sense of continuity in gritty chase than a gimmick. The cleverly presented feeling of one continuous shot in the football stadium is nothing short of precise employment of the technology in the most important scene of the film. The trick in the camera makes your heart go faster making the audience run towards the culprit and gasp for breath in the process.

Seeing “The Secret in Their Eyes” reminded Ben Affleck’s directorial debut “Gone, Baby, Gone” which took similar approach towards the genre. I am not saying that both films have the same look and feel similar but the approach is similar in the style of presentation, an original one. Affleck’s film while made an impact on me, it grew more through multiple watch while Campanella’s film is instant gratification and I am sure multiple viewing would provide more. If not for anything, watch it for the football stadium chase and you would get one of the best movies out of this.


Balaji said...

I liked the underplayed romance between the lead pair, both in the past and in the present. The subtle romance was awesome. I feel this movie is more romantic than a thriller

Reel Fanatic said...

Great review ... I can testify that this one only get better with time, since I've seen it three times now .. And speaking of Ben Affleck, loved "Gone Baby Gone," but I was really disappointed by "The Town"

Ashok said...


It has the element of love spinning this axis of the thriller. I cannot get over the fact of the stadium chase :-).

Ashok said...


I can definitely see this maturing as the time goes and I still think Affleck's directorial debut did not get the overhauling critical acclaim as it should have. While "The Town" is not the same as "Gone, Baby, Gone", I still liked it.