Having just won the Academy Award as the year’s best foreign-language film, The Secret in Their Eyes has a decent shot at wearing down resistance to subtitled films. Don’t be put off. This spellbinder from Argentina will sneak up and floor you. It’s that good.
Ricardo Darin is brilliant as Benjamin, a criminal-court investigator who is tormented by the unsolved rape and murder of a young bride in 1974, and by the military junta that devastated his country around the same time. We watch as Benjamin and Sandoval (the superb Guillermo Francella), his alcoholic partner, work with the victim’s husband, Ricardo (Pablo Rago), to identify the killer. Photos, especially those revealing the eyes of the killer, play a major role in the discovery. In a thunderously exciting chase scene through a Buenos Aires stadium during a heated soccer match, Benjamin and Sandoval hunt their prey, only to find him given shelter by the corrupt government of the new Argentina.
Now, 25 years later, the retired Benjamin begins writing a novel to resolve his need for closure and his feelings for Judge Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil, fiercely good). Out of a fabric of suspense that would have fascinated Alfred Hitchcock, director Juan José Campanella, best known in the U.S. for his work on Law & Order SVU, House and 30 Rock, weaves a moral fable that manages to pack a powerhouse punch and still be as intimate as a whisper. The highest praise is due Darin and Villamil for letting the unspoken passion between these two characters play out in their eyes. You won’t be able to take your own eyes off them, or to get this supremely intelligent and deeply touching thriller out of your head.