This superb Spanish thriller has had some exceptional reviews, and I believe won the Best Foreign Film award at last year’s Oscars and deservedly so. The Secret in Their Eyes is a full bodied, relentless, passionate and incredibly involving story of an unsolved case and a desire for love. Retired legal counsellor Benjamin Esposito never quite found closure on a case some twenty five years ago, and never quite got to be with the woman he loved. Let me explain. The case was involving the brutal rape and murder of 21 year old newlywed Liliano Coloto, and it was the husband (Ricardo Morales) that really affected Benjamin with his undying love for his lost wife. The romance in Benjamin’s life was his new boss, Irene Hastings. Of course, things are not as black and white or as simple as they could be, so do try to keep up.
This film is something of a rarity these days, a good, honest detective story that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks or big action sequences to drive it’s story, simply good acting, a deep plot with lots of twists, a powerful love story and one great big action set piece slap bang in the middle that should have you still thinking about it in weeks to come, but i’ll get to that in a bit. Benjamin decides to go back to his old building, where his former boss Irene still works. He tells her he is trying to write a book but cannot get past the first paragraph. When Irene asks what the book is about, Benjamin explains that it’s about the case of Liliana Coloto and Irene’s reactions indicate that not all went well all those years ago, and so begins a story in flashback about what happened. After witnessing the dead and brutally beaten body of Liliana and seeing many photos of a young couple in love, Benjamin makes it his mission to find the murderer. After two drunks are accused and blamed for the murder, Benjamin gets into an argument with some police guys and goes it alone, claiming they have framed the wrong people. Unfortunately the case is closed, and so Benjamin looks for clues wherever he can, and enlists the help of his best, but always drunk friend Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval’s story is a sad one, preferring to get drunk in his usual bar than spend time with his wife, and it is usually Benjamin who is called to the bar to pick him up for either fighting or being too drunk. Benjamin takes the poor guy home to an angry and fed up wife and the friendship these two have is strong, and as understanding as it possibly could be. Owing him one, Benjamin demands Pablo help him, and he does.
The love Ricardo has for his dead wife is devastating and incredibly portrayed. In one saddening scene, Benjamin finds Ricardo sat at the train station, asking what he is doing, Ricardo replies that he has been coming here every Tuesday and Thursday for over a year in the hope of catching his wife’s murderer. Benjamin already has an idea who it is from a photo he has seen. As the title suggests, the secret is indeed in their eyes, as Benjamin explains the way one guy is staring at Liliana places him as the killer, he has a gut feeling. Ricardo finds an address and when Benjamin and Pablo go looking, the guy has already gone. Its Ricardo’s passion that keeps Benjamin searching for the truth, as he too is a passionate guy and is desperate for his boss to leave her fiancé for him. The relationship between Irene and Benjamin is the driving force of the film, often sharing screen time you can tell both have feelings for each other but neither makes a move. Unfortunately Benjamin is a good guy, and has accepted that Irene is getting married, and instead wishes his life away. It’s far more interesting a love story than a million stupid Hollywood rom-com’s put together, it’s more intelligent and incredibly realistic. You really feel it for both of them, and find yourself saying out loud “just tell her how you feel, Godammit!”
Not that this will spoil the film in anyway, they eventually get a lead on their killer and Benjamin asks Irene to re-open the case, forcing her to come close to breaking the law. She reluctantly does, and Benjamin, Pablo and Irene are now all in it together and so it better work. After Pablo’s drunken friends analyse some found letters, it would seem people can change much about themselves and their appearance, but not their passion. Words used in letters written by their suspect suggest his love of football and so the stage is set for one of the most incredibly filmed, thrilling and just awesome chase scenes ever filmed! If you for some reason don’t feel like watching this film, at least search on the internet or forward your version to just before the hour mark to witness a scene that has to be seen to be believed. Whatever i explain now just will not do it justice. The camera sales through the sky toward a football ground where a huge match is taking place, the camera sweeps down over the top of the pitch above the players’ heads, you see the players, you see the fans and you are heading straight for them! Somehow, the camera enters the crowd of singing, jeering, shouting fans and you drift in and out of people until we find Benjamin and Pablo. Searching for their killer, the camera never leaves them as they duck and dive around the fans. Eventually spotting their suspect, they give chase and again the camera does not leave them. For some of the chase it sits on Benjamin’s shoulders, other times it runs alongside the killer, or takes a different route so that it catches the killer as he runs a different way. If it wasn’t clever enough, it then somehow climbs over a wall that has a twenty foot drop and hovers in the air as we watch the killer climb the wall and jump down, followed closely by a falling camera. It is simply put a work of genius, how the heck they did that is beyond my imagination and is quite possibly my standout scene of the past year.
With their killer caught they have to prove it’s him and seeing his reactions to her unbuttoned blouse, Irene steps in to help in an incredibly tense scene that will have you on the edge of your seat. To tell you much more about the final hour WILL spoil things so i will stop now. Let’s just say some things end up completely unexpected, others end up in some ways as you’d hoped. The sheer brilliance and class of the first hour is matched, and at times even bettered in the second half of the movie, with some violence and Benjamin heading on a road to closure. In fact, it’s safe to say the final half is all about closure for everyone, and whether they get it or not you will have to watch and see. The Secret in their Eyes is a masterful thriller, an honest and affecting love story and a passionate film about the lives of a few people and how tragedy has affected them. It is brilliantly written, directed with both ease and utter brilliance that at times it is scary just how good this film is. The characters are all real and not forced, and you can relate to them all but out of all the characters it is Benjamin who takes charge of the film, this is his story and thankfully he as a person is very likeable, believable, caring and at times vulnerable. Some scenes here will be upsetting, some will lift your spirits, some will make you cry, some will make you laugh but every single second and every god damned frame will have you watching in sheer amazement at just how good this film is. I have already given two ten out of tens so far this year, I cannot possibly award another so soon, but this film is simply too good not too. Looking back, i cannot find any faults with the immense perfectness of this utterly utterly brilliant film. Incredible!
[pt-filmtitle]The Secret In Their Eyes[/pt-filmtitle]