Film Reviews: Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tell No One
Starring François Cluzet and Marie-Josée Croze. Directed by Guillaume Canet. Written by Guillaume Canet and Philippe Lefebvre, based on Harlan Coben’s novel. Rated R.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Smart Alex

Tell everyone about Tell No One, a terrifically twisty French thriller.

By KRISTIAN LIN

I didn’t want to let this week pass without noting the opening of Tell No One, possibly the most entertaining French movie of 2008 and a better thriller than the new James Bond movie. It’s been playing in Dallas since July, and now it’s finally arriving in Tarrant County, at AMC Grapevine Mills on Friday.
Though this movie is an import, it feels as comfortably familiar as anything Hollywood puts out. That’s not surprising, since it’s based on an American novel by Harlan Coben, who has a cameo role. In a prologue sequence, a pediatrician named Alex Beck (François Cluzet) is attacked one evening while he’s vacationing with his wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) at a secluded cabin in the countryside. He emerges from his coma weeks later to discover that Margot has been murdered and the police suspect him as the killer, though they don’t have enough evidence to arrest him. The bulk of the story picks up on the eighth anniversary of the attack, when Alex is thunderstruck to receive an anonymous e-mail message containing video footage of a woman who appears to be Margot, alive and well in the present day.
What follows is a convoluted plot involving police conspiracies and a high-level political cover-up that really doesn’t withstand scrutiny once you stop to think about it. In the time-honored tradition of cinematic thrillers, though, this one doesn’t give you time to think. The idea that Margot might still be alive sends Alex after the truth behind his wife’s disappearance and sends people after him to silence him before he gets there, among them a street-smart cop (François Berléand) who wonders if his prey might be onto something. The film has a number of terrific action sequences like the eye-popping foot chase in which the cops pursue Alex across an eight-lane highway, dodging speeding — and eventually crashing — traffic on the way.
Writer-director Guillaume Canet is better known in France as an actor. He casts himself here in the small part of a rich playboy who’s revealed to be a very bad man. As the director, he does tremendously assured work with the DELETE and pacing, deploying the plot twists for maximum impact. Alex’s foray into Paris’ criminal underworld, guided by a patient’s shady but grateful father (Gilles Lellouche), is dramatically rewarding and not without its funny moments. Canet’s handling of his actors is superlative, too. Kristin Scott Thomas makes a particular impression as Alex’s sister’s lesbian partner, who winds up being one of the few people Alex can trust. Cluzet’s performance as a man who has numbed himself to grief only to be given a shred of hope is at the core of this movie, and it’s the reason why Tell No One is such an emotionally draining but satisfying experience.


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