March 31, 2009

Tell No One

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Rating (out of 5): ****

There's been a fairly long and interesting history of French adaptations of American mysteries, from Chabrol's Ruth Rendell-inspired La Cérémonie and The Bridesmaid to Tavernier's Jim Thompson (Coup de Torchon based on Pop 1280), but Guillaume Canet's Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne), adapted with Philippe Lefebvre from Harlan Coben's best-selling novel, succeeds as confidently as the best of them.

As in other Coben novels, the labrynthine plot centers around the unresolved past, and technology is a key player. Pediatrician Alexandre Beck marries his longtime sweetheart, Margot, but soon after they're married, when they take a trip to a favorite secluded spot, she is brutally murdered. A serial killer confesses to the murder but, cut to eight years later, when two new bodies are uncovered near where the body was discovered, the case is reopened and Alex is suspected. And at the same time, Alex receives a mysterious e-mail that may or may not have come from the wife he thought dead.

And that's just the taut first act in this extremely gripping and fascinating suspense film. To reveal more of the plot machinations would be a major disservice for anyone who has not seen it, as one twist unspools into another. I can only say that it pays off beautifully at the very end, even movingly so.

Tell No One has shades of Hitchcock's Vertigo -- and not to its detriment. Hitch would certainly admire the levels of increasing paranoia on display as well as the central plot that features a man wrongly (or is he?) accused, desperate to prove his innocence while also setting his inner demons free. For all its impressive storytelling and memorable set pieces, however, it is the marvelous actor Francois Cluzet (The Swindle, Chocolat, Round Midnight), who pulls you through this race of a film from start to finish with his empathetic central performance (for which he won a Cesar award for Best Actor). In the film's memorable, most impressively staged chase scene in which Alex sprints for his life, Cluzet is clearly doing his own running, and in several key scenes near the end he pitches his reactions perfectly.

In addition to her fantastic work in I've Loved You So Long, Kristin Scott Thomas gives her other great 2008 French language performance, here tenderly playing a lesbian who is partner to Alex's sister and one of the few people who believes his story. François Berléand is also quite amusing as the detective on Alex's trail.

If the fllm has a flaw it is that it begins to run a bit long, and there are times when the plotting veers toward the convoluted and overly complicated -- and it can be argued that one has to forgive a few coincidences -- but each time Canet and screenwriter Lefebvre manage to square things back to the human aspect before all the twists threaten to strangulate the story.

Ultimately, Tell No One is one of the more gripping thrillers in recent memory. In fact, the film will grab your heart.

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Posted by cphillips at March 31, 2009 11:46 AM
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