El Secreto de sus Ojos | The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
Winner of Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, The Secret in Their Eyes (also known as El Secreto de sus Ojos) is an ingeniously crafted mystery thriller from Argentina that grabs the viewers attention from the beginning, keeps their gaze firmly transfixed on the screen with its gripping plot, quality direction & compelling characters, and is one of the finest offerings in world cinema today that deserves a much broader audience.
The story of The Secret in Their Eyes follows a retired legal counsellor who is planning to write his first novel and chooses a quarter century old case he once worked on as his source material. The plot then interweaves two storylines, first covering the case itself which was about the brutal rape & murder of a young girl while the second follows the buried romance between him & his superior, both of whom worked on the case together and are still haunted by it.
Co-written, produced, directed & edited by Juan José Campanella, The Secret in Their Eyes is intelligently crafted from start to finish, for it brims with multiple layers which unravel steadily as the plot progresses and the film also manages to throw a few surprising twists along the road. Campanella excels in both writing & direction, for the plot is highly engrossing, the arc of the characters inhabiting this story is brilliantly handled, and the tense political ambience in Argentina during the mid-1970s is finely illustrated.
The technical aspects are no slouch and are carried out in an effective manner. The splendid use of camera, its clever placements & controlled movements, in addition to the warm colour palette provide its narrative a rich, refined look which also fits the timeline its story is set in. The pacing is consistent throughout its 129 minutes of runtime. Visual effects are not even noticeable yet its seamless fusion with the film’s thoughtful camerawork & clever editing is responsible for a particular jaw-dropping sequence that would easily go down as one of the greatest scenes ever filmed.
Coming to the performances, The Secret in Their Eyes features a committed cast in Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Guillermo Francella, Pablo Rago & others, and all of them are terrific in their given roles. What further helps their performance is that the characters they are given to play aren’t weightless and their arcs are wonderfully fleshed out. Darín delivers the finest performance of them all, his chemistry with both Villamil & Francella is spot-on who themselves provide excellent supporting inputs in their respective roles of his superior & assistant, while Rago is able to leave his mark as the film nears its conclusion.
On an overall scale, The Secret in Their Eyes is a masterwork of sophisticated filmmaking that triumphs in nearly all departments to finish as an entertaining & enthralling example of its genre(s) and beautifully portrays the fear, vulnerability & flaws of its scripted characters on the film canvas. Covering the themes of love, loss, vengeance & corruption and further uplifted by its assured direction, impeccable script & honest performances, The Secret in Their Eyes is a remarkable film that effortlessly lives up to its reputation and is absolutely deserving of all the accolades it has garnered since its release. A contemporary classic by all means, this Argentine masterpiece comes highly recommended.