By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated April 15, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT
Mario Antolini

The Secret in Their Eyes

  • Movie

As if to guarantee that the title doesn’t go to waste, the complicated characters in the sinuous Argentinean thriller The Secret in Their Eyes frequently stare at one another in tight close-ups that encourage the audience to study each actor’s expressive orbs for clues: What really happened in a Buenos Aires rape and murder case still unresolved after 25 years? What’s going on in the head and heart of a recently retired criminal investigator-turned-novelist (Ricardo Darín) who has been hopelessly in love with his upper-class court colleague (Soledad Villamil) for a quarter of a century? Slipping the action between the past and the present, the movie — handsome and conventional enough to win this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film — also snakes its slow-moving way through genres. As written and directed by Juan José Campanella, The Secret in Their Eyes melds the elements of a whodunit, a mature romance, a damning political commentary, and even a serious buddy movie, as the former investigator works side-by-side with his devoted, alcoholic partner (famed Argentinean comic Guillermo Francella).

The performances are tender, the script elegant, the cinematography (especially during a virtuoso chase scene in a soccer stadium) artful. Listen closely, though, and you can almost hear the reassuring chung-CHUNG that marks the influence of the many episodes of Law & Order on the director’s résumé. Organized in a vague approximation of a three-episode L&O marathon, scenes regularly fade to black, then pick up elsewhere. All that’s missing are title cards with Argentinean addresses to map the progress as secrets are revealed before our eyes. B

The Secret in Their Eyes

  • Movie
  • R
  • 127 minutes
  • Juan Jose Campanella