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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Argentina, 1985' Review: The Country's Bloody History Is On Trial With Ricardo Darín

Ricardo Darín pointing a finger and Peter Lanzani sitting behind him
Amazon Studios

When in serious doubt, you can just write down where and when and call it a day, I guess. Argentina, 1985 (same title used in Spanish) hailing from director and co-writer Santiago Mitre uses that simple naming technique to tell a story about the most important trial in Argentina's history, also known as ''Trial of the Juntas''. Following the bloody, fascist military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, Chief Prosecutor Julio César Strassera (played by Ricardo Darín) is appointed to lead the case against several members of that military government in an unstable political climate. Many of his colleagues decline to help in fear of retribution, until inexperienced Deputy Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani) shows up to help him, leading them to work with a group of young assistants to work through thousands of victims and witnesses of the crimes.

During the first 30 minutes or so, Mitre and fellow co-writer Mariano Llinás also seem to be overwhelmed with the material that they're given, just like their main characters. Whilst following mainly Strassera, viewers are introduced to a lot of characters along the way and surprisingly few of them return to play an integral part of the story, which you might be more forgiving of if they gave more insight to Strassera himself or even political allegiances but too many of the scenes feel rather insignificant once Mitre finds his rhythm.

When the legal team comes together and starts developing the case, Mitre is able to focus on the important themes of the film, notably with the extraordinary work of his large cast. Lanzani is able to shift between the lines of personal and political investment, young Santiago Armas Estevarena as Strassera's son Javier brings terrific comedic timing when needed, actors playing the victims deliver heartbreaking material with little screen time and Darín works in middle of all those emotions, which culminates in a wonderful monologue in the final act.

As you may be able to tell from that, Mitre and Llinás give little room to those accused, opting to let their horrific crimes, inhumanity and abuse speak for them instead. Conflict of the film which comes from those is conveyed through well-written dialogue and composer Pedro Osuna's moving arrangements, while editor Andrés Pepe Estrada keeps all those elements in check with impeccable precision; his rhythms align perfectly with Mitre's in fast-moving sequences showing the collection of victims's statements and in a final showdown in the courtroom, also intentionally choosing to linger on survivors and their young allies who will be the ones to make sure that none of it happens ever again.

Smileys: Performance by a cast, editing, score, dialogue

Frowneys: Characterisation

Fellow kids are doing well, apparently.


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