The Secret in Their Eyes weaves a spell on viewers

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      Starring Ricardo Darí­n and Soledad Villamil. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, April 23, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas

      A murder mystery wrapped inside a political thriller that’s really a love story, The Secret in Their Eyes is easily three of the best movies of the year.

      Watch the trailer for The Secret in Their Eyes.

      Argentine star Ricardo Darí­n, who specializes in superior men thwarted by some inner paralysis, plays Benjamí­n Esposito, a criminal-court investigator who can’t let go of a harrowing case from 25 years earlier. This ingeniously crafted effort, which won this year’s foreign-language-film Oscar, begins in 2000 and jumps back to the brutal slaying of a young Buenos Aires woman (Carla Quevedo). That crime devastates her husband (Pablo Rago) and plays havoc with Esposito, who struggles to convince his colleagues to keep the strange case alive.

      At work, he is caught between a silent passion for his boss (Soledad Villamil), a beautiful aristocrat seemingly beyond his reach, and the need to take care of an older, nebbishy assistant (Guillermo Francella), cynically drinking his talents away. Against the foreground of this makeshift family, regimes come and go and killers run free, sometimes with outside help.

      Oscar-nominated for his Son of the Bride, in 2001, director Juan José Campanella has helmed episodes of House, Law & Order, and 30 Rock. Here, working from the script he wrote with Eduardo Sacheri, from the latter’s novel, he challenges the viewer to keep up with the twists and symbolic possibilities while events move briskly along.

      It’s essentially a writer’s tale, but Secret doesn’t neglect the visceral. One chase sequence in a crowded soccer stadium begins with an overhead night shot and ends with a moment of breathtaking intimacy. The whole movie has that sort of scope, and weaves a spell that’s very hard to shake.