The superb The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) won the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture. The Hollywood remake is coming out this weekend, but you should first see the original. The Secret in Their Eyes is a police procedural set in Argentina with two breathtaking plot twists, original characters, a mature romance and one forehead-slapping, “how did they do it?” shot. The story centers on a murder in Argentina’s politically turbulent 1970s, but most of the story takes place twenty years later when a retired cop revisits the murder.
Veteran Argentine actor Ricardo Darin shines once again in a Joe Mantegna-type role. Darin leads an excellent cast, including Guillermo Francella, who brings alive the character of Darin’s drunk assistant. Darin’s detective is a solitary guy who retracts into his lair to bang away at a novel. He has feelings for his boss, a tough judge played by Soledad Villamil. Her career and her personal life can’t wait for the detective to get his own stuff together. All three characters throw themselves into solving the murder and, when stymied, are all scarred by the lack of resolution.
The movie is titled after one element that I hadn’t seen before in a crime movie. And then there are the major plot twists. The final one is a jaw-dropper.
Director Juan Jose Campanella received justifiable praise for the amazing shot of a police search in a filled and frenzied soccer stadium. It ranks as one of the great single shots of extremely long duration, right up there with the opening sequence of Touch of Evil, the kitchen entrance in Goodfellas and the battle scene in Children of Men. This shot alone makes watching the movie worthwhile.
Filmmaker Billy Ray has remade the Argentine film as Secret in Their Eyes, to be released October 23 starring Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Chiwetelu Ejiofor. Ray is no hack – he’s adapted the screenplays for Shattered Glass (which he also directed), Captain Phillips and the first The Hunger Games. The plot has been turned into a story about thee US federal law enforcement officials and the murder of one of their children; unfortunately, the trailer looks more like a plot-driven Law & Order, with none of the characters as singular or as memorable as in the Argentine original. We shall see.
The Secret in Their Eyes is high on my Best Movies of 2010. It’s available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Xbox Video and Flixster.