September 10, 2008

Tell No One (Ne Le Dis à Personne)

*** ½ out of ****

Full of artistic merit and certainly one of the most exciting French films to be seen in theaters in quite a while, “Tell No One” is a great thrill ride, varying between being as adrenaline-charged as “Run Lola Run” in the chase sequences to being as hide-and-seek suspenseful as “North by Northwest” in others.

In the film, Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) is a pediatrician who has been devastated following the murder of his wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) eight years prior. The mysterious circumstances surrounding his survival baffled policemen for years, so when two bodies are discovered near the former location of his wife’s corpse, the policemen renew their former suspicions concerning Alex as the prime suspect. Alex is then thrown into the middle of a conspiracy involving a series of e-mails hinting at his wife’s survival and an enigmatic group of assassins ruthlessly intent on locating her whereabouts. As the suspicions of the police seem more and more founded on evidence pointing toward Alex, he must go into hiding with the help of others, including his former client, gangster Bruno (Gilles Lellouche), his lawyer, Élisabeth Feldman (Nathalie Baye), his sister, horse trainer Anne (Marina Hands), and her partner, Hélène (Kristin Scott Thomas) in order to clear his name by unraveling the mystery surrounding his wife’s death.

Cluzet is splendid in the role of the unwitting doctor, inviting viewers with the reality of his acting. (I am still as of yet uncertain if his onscreen appeal has anything to do with his uncanny resemblance to Dustin Hoffman.) Nevertheless, in a role such as his, he is perfectly capable in his ability to captivate audiences amidst the suspense that pervades and comprises the film.

Meanwhile, the real surprise of the film is actress Kristin Scott Thomas, an English actress better-known for roles in “The English Patient” and “The Horse Whisperer.” Being pleasantly surprised that she speaks the French language so well, I realized the broad range of emotions she could also portray onscreen with as little additional effort as it appears she requires to speak in a foreign language. If prior roles of hers have not captured the attention of critics already, her effortless talent in this film is certainly arresting.

Because of its frequent, exceptional use of mobile framing, cinematography in the film is certainly worth mentioning. The variations of close-ups and extreme long shots certainly have a modernist appeal. Editing is also fantastic; one of the best sequences is the montage of the guests in attendance of the “wedding” and “funeral” of Margot, superimposed over each other. This montage has a strong emotional component that stands out to viewers like me in the way it makes happiness and sorrow indistinguishable from one another and helps to streamline the thoughts of Alex as he reflects on his pain.

The story itself is definitely well-written, presenting one that has definitely been written before among several films, but this film is new and fresh, touting great direction from Guillaume Canet. Tirelessly suspenseful and edge-of-your-seat, the story could have gone on even longer, and I still would have been as riveted as I had been through the puzzling circumstances of the first hour and a half or so. On the other hand, after drawing out the suspense so long, the sudden, quick debriefing that organizes the true circumstances of the film ends up being a bit of a convoluted mess in which it is easy to get lost. I recognize that the film is trying hard to remove the facts for most of the film so viewers are lured inward to decipher the film’s events themselves, but that final bombardment of all of the film’s answers is almost too much and would have done better in paced revelations.

Nevertheless, “Tell No One” is built on an intelligent, calculated puzzle of a story that invites viewers to continue assembling the pieces long after they leave the theater.

“Tell No One” is currently playing at the Belcourt Theatre.

Originally published in the September 10 issue of Versus Magazine: Entertainment & Culture

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