The Secret in Their Eyes
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Released: August 2009
Director Campanella has directed a bunch of American TV drama shows, most notably 17 Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episodes and a couple L&O: Criminal Intents. In watching The Secret in Their Eyes, this makes perfect sense—this movie comes off a bit as a long detective show with the twists of your average L&O. There is something satisfyingly prosaic about this film, like turning on a decent cop show and knowing the formula, and enjoying it not in spite of the formula, but in part because of it.
Benjamin Esposito is a retired police detective writing a novel about a case he caught a quarter of a century ago. He probably planned that when he retired, he would have some great stories to tell/sell, but like a lot of you (us), when he started typing, he realized he couldn’t write for shit. So he calls up his old boss from those days hoping to see if she can give him some insight. Yes, I said “she”—Ben’s old boss, you see, is Irene, and Ben certainly had quite the thing for her way back in the days they worked together.
|The Big Leer|
What makes this story different than the L&O episodes Campanella directed is that in the American criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. In 1975 Argentina, you can rape and kill whomever you fancy and get off scot-free, as long as you are working for the Perón government. Benjamin likes the the leering guy in the photos for the crime, but this suspect works for the right people and walks.
|They'd have solved it in under 60 minutes, with commercial breaks|
The Title: El secreto de sus ojos. This was remade recently starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Nicole Kidman (not in 12 Years a Slave, I don’t think). I haven’t seen it, but the reviews and box office receipts weren’t kind.
The Culture: Argentina was a pretty corrupt place under the Peróns, and most of the film takes place at the tail end of the last Perón's presidency (the President was Juan Perón's third wife, Isabel). The opposition was made up of leftist thugs, though, so neither side were the good guys. But letting a guy off for rape and murder because he works for the government seems wrong.
Agenda Danger: Seems like Isabel Perón didn't worry too much about police ethics or in trying to get her own musical, like Perón's second wife did.
Best Picture that year: The Hurt Locker
Rating: Fun to watch, like a good cop show.