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