Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Secret in Their Eyes - Review

Before even sitting down to watch Juan Campanella's The Secret in Their Eyes, it already had a lot to live up to. With its, somewhat, surprising success at this year's Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Feature category the movie, some might say, controversially pipped two phenomenal films, A Prophet and The White Ribbon (theFILMblog's best film of 2009) to the coveted prize. But let's not give it an automatic 5/5 rating, based on past achievements, shall we? After all, Forest Gump beat The Shawshank Redemption to the Best Picture prize in 1995 and in my humble opinion that doesn't make Gump the superior film.

Based on Eduardo Sacheri's book La Pregunta de Sus Ojos (The Question in Their Eyes), a retired legal counselor writes a novel hoping to find closure for one of his past homicide cases and for his unreciprocated love with his past boss - both of which still haunt him decades later.

Think it's perhaps got to the stage where I shouldn't be surprised how accessible a film like this is. The pace and execution of the storytelling was absolutely glorious, as well as, its seemingly effortless ability to skip back and forth from the 70s and 90s in its intertwining narrative.

The settings of Buenos Aires added a resplendently understated elegance to the feature, arguably similar in many ways to the film Adrift - viewed earlier this year at the Belfast Film Festival. The vibrant settings of Argentina enhanced the film in a way Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro failed to truly demonstrate (yes I am aware Tetro was filmed in black and white).

The performances however are where the film truly shines. Ricardo Darin, in the leading role as Benjamín, was magnificent. Showing in the more vintage 70s sequences a man full of heart as well as a truthful exuberance for the law. As oppose to the more modern day narrative, where we see a man full of regret and faint wisdom as he refuses to move on from what has already came to be.

Equally his female opposite, Soledad Villamil was as beautiful as she was compelling, though I found it quite interesting she as a character had not changed much from how we originally see her in 1974. Younger of course but always waiting for her man to come and sweep her off her feet. In this respect the film was, at its core, quite a moving and heartfelt love story which spanned a generation.

Despite some particularly gritty moments, on par with the wonderful cinematic adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I found myself rather fascinated by some of the more ethically greyer themes, touched upon, in the film. One particular area concerning the troublesome loopholes in a justice system, where a man convicted of murder can walk freely by simply providing information to authorities. Faintly similar - and nothing more - to the ridiculous Law Abiding Citizen, but told with much more intelligence and with a resulting vengence much more sinister than a wounded husband going on a senseless killing spree.

Always because the film was being told from Darin's first person perspective, essentially Benjamin's novel, there was perhaps a hint of over-elaborate storytelling and romanticising his past affair, but regardless it made for some truly compelling cinema.

Final Thoughts
Whether the film deserved the Oscar ahead of A Prophet or The White Ribbon is frankly a ridiculous argument to make, and not what the film should be judged on. However, regardless of which you prefer, The Secret in Their Eyes is still a gloriously executed crime thriller with some genuinely classy performances and exquisite surroundings. All from a bloke who directed a few episodes of House no less...


See This If You Liked...
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Following, Law and Order (TV) and Luther (TV)

The Secret in Their Eyes is currently running in selected cinemas across the UK now.


nerysia said...

Hi Andy, it's Nerys, I watched this film in Spanish recently, no subtitles, could hardly make head nor tail of it, perhaps just about got the storyline right though according to your review! I think your reviews are developing very nicely over time, well done!

Nick said...

I had the chance to watch this movie in argentina while i was looking for apartments in Buenos Aires , so its kind of special for me, lucky for me i saw it in DVD so it had english subtitles. The movie is incredible, and the truth is that it has a lot of history on it about argentina, my argentinian friends explain me some things during the movie that helped me understand better the plot.

Great film, !