Argentina, 1985 review – a story of great courage

By Marc Miller
Published: October 22, 2022 (Last updated: January 16, 2023)


Told with grace and a notable light touch, Argentina, 1985 is a story of great courage that honors the dissidents and the brave men and women who avenged them.

On October 21st, 2022, Amazon Prime Video released the film Argentina, 1985 – here is our official spoiler-free review.

The filmmakers take on an ambitious project with Argentina, 1985. Argentina’s official selection for the 95th Academy Awards is as straightforward a courtroom drama as you will ever see for such a prolific case, even if the film has unusual and unexpected moments of comic relief and a final twenty minutes that’s a bit of an odd duck. For the film’s steady hand, director Santiago Mitre never loses his focus, even though he does everything he can to avoid moments of cinematic grandeur.

Mitre and Mariano Llinás’s script focuses on the 1985 Trial of Juntas, based on the first prosecution of a military regime since the Nuremberg trials, a prosecution of the leaders of Argentina’s final military dictatorship that lasted seven years. The story follows the lone-standing Chief Prosecutor, César Strassera (The Secret in Their EyesRicardo Darin), and his young up-and-coming second chair, Luis Moreno Ocampo (The Clan’s Pedro Lanzani). This was the of its kind in a civilian court of a trial most have forgotten about. That is despite the jaw-dropping atrocities that happened here. That includes an estimated 30,000 political dissidents that were either kidnapped, tortured, or murdered.

Mitre’s film is a bit of a slow burn, but the fire never ignites. Instead, the viewer is treated to a court case filled with intrigue, danger, and paranoia. That includes Strassera’s family, as he constantly worries that men approaching his daughter may be moles. Or the fact that he cannot keep staff because no one with experience wants to touch this case in fear of losing their jobs and security or endangering their own family. So, where do you turn? Ocampo convinces the Chief Prosecutor to hire young and hungry lawyers, dissidents themselves, who want to make their mark.

Argentina, 1985 is gorgeous to look at, from Javier Juliá’s eye for dim lights, smoke-filled rooms, and empowering views, along with Micaela Saiegh’s flawless production and Natalia Alayon’s costume design. This film does an admirable job of dropping you into another time and place where having morals and courage was the quickest way to a jobless existence or none at all.

Mitre incorporates themes into his script and character behaviors of “never again,” and you feel that throughout the picture, never more evident and effective than when the director lines up a half-dozen powerful testimonial monologues, all based on real cases, describing their experiences as being forcibly disappeared. Of course, the oral histories are jaw-dropping, from a woman describing giving birth to her child when being handcuffed behind her back to a man being gang raped by his military captors, their stories are haunting, nevermore than when a mother simply just wants to know if her daughter is dead or alive. Their answer? They have none.

If you need a comparison or a film for the context, the closest may be the Jack Lemmon film, The Missing, a film about Lemmon’s Edmund Horman, who searched for his son who went missing under a military coup in Chile. The difference is Mitre’s Argentina, 1985 shows you the aftermath and repentance. While Mitre’s film lacks a true cinematic gut punch, Darin’s closing arguments are moving and even powerful at times. As we mentioned above, there is an unusual cool down after that moment. However, that is only to highlight Strassera’s true nobility that the work is not done and quite possibly never will be.

Told with grace and, at times, a notably light touch, along with a stand-out performance from Darin, Argentina, 1985 is a story of great courage that honors the dissidents and the brave men and women who avenged them.

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