Originally Reviewed – 6/22/2010
Whenever Oscar nominations are announced in mid January, the one category I tend to skim over is Best Foreign Language Film. Usually, the nominees haven’t seen a stateside release and if they have, they simply don’t show up on my radar. So, when making my Oscar picks for any given year, I generally go on buzz and critical response alone. While it may be a touch disingenuous when making those recommendations, usually twenty raving critics can’t be wrong. So, when this year’s frontrunners included A Prophet, White Ribbon and The Secret In Their Eyes, I went with the crowd and picked A Prophet. When A Prophet lost to Secret and I actually saw the film, I was shocked; not only was A Prophet one of the best foreign language films I had ever seen, it was the best film of year for me thus far, period. Yet again, I hadn’t seen the eventual winner and now that I have, I need to abashedly retract my annoyance from my review of A Prophet: the Secret In Their Eyes most certainly deserved its 2010 Oscar and is a wonderful piece of filmmaking that should be sought out as soon as possible.
The storyline juggles two timelines centered around Benjamin (Ricardo Darín); one where he’s a 40 something prosecutor working on an Argentinean murder case and the other 25 years later, newly retired and still mulling over the killer that “got away”. In addition to this, you also get a truly touching story of unrequited love between Benjamin and his boss, Irene (Soledad Villamil) and the main story of Benjamin and this partner Pablo (Guillermo Francella) sleuthing for the killer. The film does a wonderful job of balancing each of these deceptively complex storylines, with no arc overtaking the other. It’s this careful balancing act that, in my mind, elevated this film over A Prophet for the Oscar, as it really does have a little of everything.
While the story and direction are incredible in their own right, the film is one of the finest acted stories I’ve seen this year. Each cast member digs deep to create interesting, complex and very human characters. The fine acting enhances the great screenplay even further creating a truly breathtaking experience. While some moments border on melodrama, by the time those instances crop up, you are too invested to really care, making this is a an easy movie to get caught up in. Also, it’s worthy to note that the cinematography is absolutely stunning, especially in the famed “soccer stadium” scene. Not to give anything away, but not since Children of Men have I seen such an inventive use of the “one take scene” and it comes at a point in the film where things are just starting to drag, revitalizing the movie all the way to its somewhat predictable but still astonishing end.
Widely praised and lauded during its theatrical release overseas, The Secret In Their Eyes lives up to the hype and trophies. With a central whodunit much like this years Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Secret up the ante and provides a dark story laced with wit, humor and suggested romance in a way that startles, thrills and mesmerizes. Yes, I know I am at the point of gushing over this movie, but it’s destined to be in my top 5 of the year and is worth a viewing at your first opportunity.
Score – 90%