DVD: The Secret in Their Eyes (18)

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The Independent Culture

Perplexingly, Juan José Campanella's slick Argentinean legal thriller bested Jacques Audiard's gangster/prison drama A Prophet and Michael Haneke's masterpiece The White Ribbon for last year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. That's not to say The Secret in Their Eyes isn't worthy or compelling, it's just not a patch on the other two.

The lugubrious Ricardo Darín (superb in Fabiá* Bielinsky's Nine Queens) plays brooding Benjamin Espósito, a retired Buenos Aires prosecutor who decides to write a novel about a long forgotten cold case: a teacher who was raped and murdered 25 years earlier, in 1974 – a time of state-sponsored violence, when Argentina suffered under a military junta.

Most of Campanella's tense noir drama is set in the Seventies, with Espósito and his sozzled partner, Sandoval (Guillermo Francella, excellent), tracking down the killer. The relationship between these two is particularly strong, with Espósito spending a lot of his time hauling a ranting (about the fascist government) Sandoval out of bars, paying his booze bill and allowing him to sleep on his couch. However, the actual love story is between Espósito and his boss, the fetching senior prosecutor Irene Menéndez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil).

All in all a very well-made thriller, with a great chase sequence (at a football game), and some terrific performances, particularly from a supremely charismatic Darín.