The Secret In Their Eyes - DVD Review

'like Fincher's Zodiac, this is a film about a murder but it is also a film more concerned with the lives the murder touches than with the crime itself'

Due to the oddities of globally different release dates, The Secret In Their Eyes finds itself as both the recipient of the 2010 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and as one of the nominees for BAFTA's equivalent 2011 award. Juan José Campanella's film thus stands in the enviable position of having been premièred in its home territory in 2009 and then continuing to generate awards buzz and publicity for the two subsequent years.

This heavy pressure of expectation can weigh the film down in the opening half hour or so. The snappy and darkly comic script, adapted by Campanella and Eduardo Sacheri from Sacheri's novel, gives way quickly to the brutal rape and murder of young schoolteacher Liliana Coloto (Carla Quevedo), a crime investigated by court official and protagonist Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín) and his new boss Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil).

The setup seems set to play out as a lengthy murder mystery with overtones of traditional Hollywood thrillers but instead, at about the half hour mark, an obvious killer is suggested and the film seems to stagnate for a few beats, unsure of where to turn.

The route it decides on is a route incredibly similar in many ways to David Fincher's Zodiac. Like that film, this is indeed a film about a murderer who may or may not have been found and who may or may not have had justice served upon him but in the same way, it is a film more concerned with the lives the murder touches than with the crime itself.

Campanella's story is embellished with an incredible amount of detail which ensure the above concept doesn't run old or get tired quickly. Told using flashbacks, a now older Benjamín seeks out Irene again to go over the case, the two's unrequited love indelibly linked to Liliana's murder. This forms the main backbone of the surrounding stories but when you add to this the story of the victim's husband, the supposed murderer and Benjamín's alcoholic colleague, you get a tale incredibly rich in detail, all rounded off by a final quarter that will both catch many viewers off-guard and provide detailed closure in equal measure.

If the film has problems, they can only be significantly noted on two fronts. Firstly, although Campanella obviously has technical ability (a sweeping football stadium shot that starts miles away and ends up in the faces of the crowd in one smooth movement is a highlight) he fails to show it on regular occasions. The criticism that any given film 'looks televisual' has become too easy and too lazy a motif to trot out recently but that isn't to say it doesn't have merit and The Secret In Their Eyes can feel like a feature-length Midsomer Murders. Perversely, the second problem is that when Campanella does attempt to visually stage his themes he goes for the overtly obvious. A late scene sees three main characters shot with bars between them and the camera: they are literally imprisoned by the mystery that has obsessed them for years. Likewise, shots of Benjamín gazing at Irene from above, from the side and from behind pervade; they're never on equal footing and Campanella wants to make sure you see that.

Despite the film's minor problems the awarding bodies have got their lavishing of attention just right. The Secret In Their Eyes is better than both high profile entries from last year's Oscars (The White Ribbon and A Prophet) and based on the story alone, deserves another award this year from BAFTA. Campanella's work may occasionally lack visual flourish but its integrity and dark wit can't be questioned. See it now, before Hollywood taps it for an inevitable remake.

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'a finely crafted film that is intoxicating to watch. It may not be all that fresh or groundbreaking, but it shows Hollywood that thrillers can be made with real class and restraint rather than resorting to flashy set-pieces and sex symbol stars' - Row Three, 4/5


  1. Glad you liked it. I admit it has a few moments that are a bit off kilter, but I was quite entranced by its peculiarities.

  2. I thought it was just a really compelling story. There was the odd miss-step as you say but never anything that threatened to take me out of how much I was enjoying seeing it unfold.

  3. beautiful, interesting movie. it went in unexpected directions.

  4. Definitely did. I didn't see the end coming at all. Very much enjoyed it.

  5. This was great, and eve though a bit slow I still found it to be really intriguing.

  6. Yup, agree completely. Was so absorbed in it I didn't even really notice the slow pace.