Friday, August 15, 2008

Tell No One

"Margot at the Funeral"

One is left calculating what "Tell No One" reminds one of–equal parts Hitchcock and Chandler, the gritty BBC procedural mysteries,with a little bit of "The Fugitive" thrown in–but it only occurs to one to tick these things off after the film's conclusion. One is too immersed in the complicated story to look for stylistic roots while its going on. Besides that, one can't seem to unclench the chair-arms while the roller-coaster ride is going on.

"Tell No One" (aka "Ne le dis a personne") starts slowly enough. In its first minutes, it sets up an anniversary celebration between childhood sweethearts Alexandre and Margot Beck (François Cluzet and Marie-Josée Croze).

And then, as they say on the magazine shows, "
things go horribly, horribly wrong."

Flash-forward eight years, and pediatrician Alexandre is still grieving the loss of his wife. The police are snooping around, because at the time of her murder, he was their prime suspect. But now, nearing that fateful anniversary, the gendarmes are starting to ask questions again. And the recent discovery of two buried corpses nearby only complicates the matter.

The cold case suddenly starts heating up, and making Beck quite hot under the collar.

Two sets of investigators are tracking him. Then, he begins to get cryptic e-mails, the first one ending with the ominous phrase "Tell No One. They Are Watching." Attached to the message is a file that he's having trouble opening. Usually the hunted man has all sorts of road-blocks put in his path; the vagaries of incompatible software have now joined the mystery lexicon.

To reveal anything more is to spoil the enjoyment of the unravelling of the story, but it involves chases, subterfuge and criminal activity in very high and very low circles, good cops and bad cops and wet-works operatives.*

Oh, and everything he knows is wrong. But that's okay–he's a man who doesn't know too much.

"Tell No One" is based on Harlan Coben's 2002 novel of the same name, and the switching from Jersey to France matters not a jot. Some changes have been made to the story (with Coben's appreciation), and is well-crafted by director Guillaume Canet, and none of the seams show or give you any clue for what's coming ahead. You're carried along finding new information along with the lead, played extraordinarily well by François Cluzet. He has a quiet every-man kind of face, but Cluzet takes that quality and turns it on its ear. His performance reminds me of Bob Peck's in the excellent "Edge of Darkness," and both films have similar ways of presenting new information casually. But every character is well-etched–that's part of the film's great charm–but special mention has to be made of Kristin Scott Thomas who drops as effortlessly into this french-language role as she does into her typical "English Rose" roles. And if Croze seems somewhat familiar, you might remember her as Jean-Dominique Bauby's first language therapist in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," and the Dutch assassin in Spielberg's "Munich."

"Tell No One" tells its story with the chilly efficiency one expects from a thriller, but what is surprising is that it does it with so much feeling and heart. Highly recommended. Go tell everyone about this one.

"Tell No One" is a full-price ticket. This is not one to miss.

* In fact, the one story element that doesn't jibe I can't reveal because it would give everything away!


John said...

I saw this film the day after you did, and was similarly impressed with the tightly wound mystery and solid craftsmanship of the film. The main character, Cluzet, reminded me of someone the whole time. I was thinking Leonard Cohen, but then I heard that the New Yorker was comparing him to a young Dustin Hoffman. That sounds like a more apt comparison.

Yojimbo_5 said...

This will mean absolutely nothing to you--only to people who've known me a long time, and know the various friends from different junctures of my life--but my take on him was "He's the love-child of Dan Tritle and Dustin Hoffman."

The entire cast is superb.