Secrets And Eyes

It’s hard not to like a detective movie. The detective is a stand in for the audience. Unravelling the mysteries of the universe at the same time we are. The detective solves a crime but also learns deeper lessons about the human condition along the way.

El Secreto De Sus Ojos (The Secret In Their Eyes) follows this template. The Argentine movie won the Oscar for best foreign picture, but there really isn’t much foreign to it at all. It follows all the checkpoints set up by Raymond Chandler. The hot headed loner hero, the woman he can’t be with because she’s either too good or too bad for him, a grisly crime, tough guys, and a lot of drinking to forget the past.

They set up enough variations to keep it from seeming like a Columbo episode in Spanish. Benjamin, a retired federal justice tries to write a book about a murder he solved 25 years earlier. There are thematic parallels of love, justice, and forgiveness between what went on 25 years earlier and the present. But what’s really remarkable are the same actors play these characters in both time periods. I wish Benjamin Button had the same make up crew.

This is a well acted, finely plotted thriller with characters you enjoy spending time with. I made similar comments a couple months earlier about Shutter Island. Just like that Scorcese movie The Secret In Their Eyes employs the same insulting device to reveal the plot twist. That trick started in the Usual Suspects. While the protagonist figures out the truth we are shown flashbacks of the hints of the plot twist  scattered throughout the movie we just finished watching.

Audiences of these types of thrillers generally are movie literate. This isn’t Avatar’s crowd. They can generally remember scenes they just watched an hour earlier. 

Scott Foundas Sighting!

On a separate note I opened this past week’s LA Weekly to read an article by my old sparring partner, Scott Foundas, in which he extols the genius of Shawn Levy. Who is Shawn Levy? The schmuck who directed Night At The Museum, Cheaper By The Dozen, and The Pink Panther remake. I’m beginning to think Foundas might have a sense of humor. This is a joke, right?

3 thoughts on “Secrets And Eyes

  1. Oh, come on! I LOVED that scene!

    The montage of flashbacks at the end is not a simple device to reveal the plot twist, is a map into how human intuition works, and a good one: from a vague discomfort that tells him that something is just not right, he combs through the brain-files looking for a clue, goes through a tunnel confronting his own motivations and emerges to the sudden AHA! moment when the famous phrase “What a man cannot change is his passion” draws the curtains wide open in his mind and BAM! He knows. He knows what is really going on. Isn’t that how truth reveals itself to us?

    That scene got me in someone’s head and took me along for the ride of realization and self-realization in real time like no other scene in a movie ever did. I was him for a minute. It was amazing.

    Perhaps you are a very lucky guy and have never been there: hit by the rapid fire of dismembered memories drowning your brain right as something you already knew, but couldn’t face, crosses through the barrier of denial and stares at you in the face. Campanella has, I can assure you. That’s what you saw, you just didn’t recognize it.

    • I’ve got to respectfully disagree.
      That device is now used in every movie with a plot twist. Usual Suspects is the first time I saw it when Gabriel Byrne figured out Kevin Spacey was Keyser Soze. Then they used it in The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, The Others, Unbreakable, Shutter Island, and now The Secrets In Their Eyes. What was interesting fifteen years ago has become a lazy derivative storytelling gimmick that takes me out of the movie.

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