This Argentinean film from Juan Jose Campanella rose above strong competition under the radar to recently capture Oscar's Best Foreign-Language film, captivating in many ways.
The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos, in Spanish with English subtitles) is blessed with an ensemble including lauded native thespian Ricardo Darin, Soledad Villamil, and Pablo Rago. It's a complex, unchronological thriller filled with cultural, political, psychological, and romantic underpinnings.
At the center of it all in top form is Darin, so good in Nine Queens, as newly retired Buenos Aires prosecution court investigator Benjamin Esposito still troubled over a 25-year-old case. Campanella's assured visual and narrative stylishness comes through Esposito's means to find closure through a harrowing case of a 23-year-old woman's homicide by writing a novel.
The victim's young banking husband, Ricardo Morales, is essayed by Rago with pain and fidelity, especially in the search for a killer. It nicely dovetails with Esposito's feelings for his former boss and would-be love interest of a new judge, Irene, evinced with chic candor by Villamil, as an effete legal eagle Cornell lady.
Here's a mystery layered in many fulfilling ways, especially from a human and moral standpoint. The present story has Esposito and peculiar often imbibed partner Sandoval, wryly done by Guillermo Francella, leaning towards a suspect (Javier Godino), and needing Irene to work towards a conviction. But when this driven preoccupation is on the verge of conclusion and opportunity knocking in his personal life, his impassioned nature from lost opportunities leaves him in a very precarious position.
Like David Fincher's exemplary, multi-faceted Zodiac there is something quite canny here in the form of a procedural. But, like the convoluted, concurrent Swedish suspenser The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo it's also about where one's awful past, ardor, and moral compass can take them. To complete his story it's about commitment to an all-but forgotten case and Irene, but there are obstacles when it comes to Godino's shadowy Gomez, a rough repressive law enforcement, and stability in Buenos Aires. Besides Esposito, there are many at risk because of his pursuit of the truth.
Working with his crew so smoothly, Campanella expertly allows one to see the change over Esposito's life as Darin distinctly internalizes the personal duress in such a sophisticated, affecting manner. This Oscar-winning dark horse has the kind of unsteady state of grace under pressure making for dramatic gravity into the revisiting of a rape-murder something more than criminal and investigative splendor.