Starring: Ricardo Darin, Soledad Villamil, Javier Godino
Directed by: Juan Jose Campanella (“Son of the Bride”)
Written by: Juan Jose Campanella (“Son of the Bride”) and Eduardo Sacheri (debut)
Director Juan Jose Campanella may be best known for the collection of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” episodes he has directed over the last decade, but if he’s to be remembered for anything in his 30-year career it will undoubtedly be “The Secret in Their Eyes,” a Hitchcockian thriller from Argentina that was the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language film this past March (it arguably upset “A Prophet” and “The White Ribbon” for the prize).
Set on a 25-year timeline, “Secret” begins with the brutal rape and murder of a young Buenos Aires woman in the 1970s. While the case is filed away unsolved, it’s something that criminal court employee Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) can’t shake from his memory during his entire time working in the Argentinean judicial system.
Years later, Benjamin, who has recently retired as a federal investigator, decides he will use his time off to write a book on the cold case that still haunts him. His newfound hobby is met with hesitancy from Judge Irene Menendez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), who worked with Benjamin when the crime first took place. Both shared a mutual attraction for each other although neither ever acted on it. Irene doesn’t feel he should dig up the past. Benjamin’s research begins innocently enough as he once again pieces together the case and tries to fill in the holes that ultimately ended the investigation.
Based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri, “Secrets” mesmerizes through sharply-written flashbacks between a versatile and wide-eyed Benjamin with his entire life ahead of him and the present one with graying hair who wants more than anything to solve a murder that continues to torment him even in the twilight of his career. As he relives the injustices and corruption that took place across his homeland years ago, Benjamin also hashes out the moments in his life where he lost his opportunity to be truly happy.
While there is a subtle love story and political commentary lingering in the foreground of “Secrets,” its true genre is unquestionable. This is a thriller at its most engaging. There is an intensity director/co-writer Campanella creates through smart dialogue, expert pacing, and intricate storytelling unmatched last year by most American-made thrillers. The film’s passion, however, still hangs on the pure talent of its actors. It’s through their eyes where we discover that while desiring a second chance at something may evoke painful memories, it will also magnify an awareness they never knew existed.