Directed by Santiago Mitre — Screenplay by Santiago Mitre and Mariano Llinás.
Santiago Mitre’s Argentina, 1985 is a historical courtroom drama about the true story of the Trial of the Juntas, which sought to bring to justice the ringleaders of the military junta that committed murder, kidnappings, and torture under Argentina’s right-wing dictatorship in the late-1970s and early-1980s. The film primarily follows Julio César Strassera (played by Ricardo Darín), the chief prosecutor, as he, along with a team of inexperienced lawyers, gathered evidence and testimonies that could possibly convince the court.
It begins with a lot of on-screen text that actually made me worried that it would be hard for the film to set up the context for what had happened previously. That, ultimately, isn’t really a problem with the film, which mostly features four things: meetings between attorneys, generic but entertaining family scenes, some times quite heart-wrenching testimonies (Laura Paredes is really good as Adriana Calvo, a real-life person who experienced something really traumatic at the hands of the military), and scenes of individuals trying to assemble information. Structurally, you could say that it is rather familiar, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the familiar beats may help you as a viewer to settle into what the film is throwing at you.
It is a solid, if somewhat Hollywood-ized, courtroom drama that I thought was really interesting. I didn’t know anything about the trial beforehand, but the obvious comparison (which I believe was also made in the film) is the Nuremberg trials. Just as the obvious recent film that Argentina, 1985 will be compared to is The Trial of the Chicago 7 (I wonder what a Sorkin-like energy would have done for this film), and it also reminded me a little bit of The Post and Bridge of Spies.
The film is well-shot with slick montages and paced fairly well, though I do think the film feels a little long. There are a couple of scenes that possibly could have been cut, like the scenes where Strassera worries about his daughter and her boyfriend, though I do understand why those scenes were included. I do think some early expository scenes felt a little clumsily written (I think, at one point, Strassera says “Yes I know what my job is. I am a prosecutor.”). But I was pleasantly surprised by the way the filmmakers managed to infuse some comedy into certain scenes (I really liked the oddly comedic scene where Strassera sits and discusses who he can partner up with, but every person that is suggested is too much of a fascist). However, there is another scene where Darín’s Strassera made a crude gesture in court that kind of took me out of the film, though perhaps that was something that really happened.
Santiago Mitre’s Argentina, 1985 is a really solid and entertaining courtroom drama with absorbing and heart-wrenching testimonies. Ricardo Darín is terrific in the central role, and I’d also like to highlight Laura Paredes and Peter Lanzani. When I found out that it was available on Prime Video, I decided to finally check this out since it won the Golden Globe for Best Non-English Film much to the surprise of most awards pundits. While it still wouldn’t be my personal pick for the category, I will say that I really liked this film.
8 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.