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On Movies: This 'Secret' can be figured out

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 20, 2010 -  Winner of this year’s Academy Award for best foreign language film, “The Secret in Their Eyes” is a routine, moderately suspenseful “Cold Case”-style melodrama combined with a love story. Director Juan Jose Campanella, originally from Argentina, where the movie is set, is a veteran of the “Law and Order” franchise.

The film shows the competent narrative direction and focus on a few principal characters that background would suggest. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, which make it clear that a cruel disdain for the rule of law prevailed during the Argentinean dictatorship of the 1970s.

Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin), a retired investigator for a criminal court, can’t stop thinking about the rape and murder of a young woman that he investigated 25 years earlier. The investigation ended in a conviction, but the murderer was released because he was useful to the ruling military junta. In the process of re-opening the case in order to write a book, Esposito becomes close to a beautiful lawyer (Soledad Villamil) he had once thought too aristocratic to consider him as a romantic partner.

The movie could be shorter – it’s two hours and 10 minutes in length – but the story is told clearly and we understand why the case obsessed Esposito. The ending is plausible, although not particularly surprising.

Opens Friday, May 21

Harper Barnes,  the author of Never Been A Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked The Civil Rights Movement, has also been a long-time reviewer of movies.