Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review: "Tell No One"

It is a refreshing thing in a world filled with convoluted, high concept thrillers like 88 Minutes to stumble across one that doesn't treat its audience like stunted children.

Tell No One, the new mystery thriller by French director/actor Guillaume Canet, is the very definition of a high concept thriller, i.e. a movie whose plot can be summed up in 25 words or less. But what makes it work, and work well, is that it is never pigeonholed in by its main concept. It is a complex, well crafted paranoid thriller that, while not perfect, still rises above most of the current genre landscape.

As the film opens we are introduced to Dr. Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet), and his wife Margot (Marie-Josee Croze) as they sneak off to a lake for a romantic evening under the stars. However, it all comes crashing down when Margot swims ashore and is brutally murdered by a notorious serial killer.

Flash forward eight years and Dr. Beck is just trying to live a normal life, until one day when he receives a mysterious email that seems to be from his dead wife.

Suddenly, his whole world is turned upside down, and the details of that fateful night at the lake seem to make less and less sense, as his own innocence in the death of his wife is called into question.

The hook, and therefore the high concept, is the email from his supposedly dead wife eight years after her murder, and Canet handles the answers well, even if they tend to get a little too tangled in their own web, because there are many threads running through this film, and many aren't always on the surface. Yet Canet keeps us guessing and asking questions, constructing the film in such a way that we too begin to question what we saw at the beginning of the film.

But perhaps what I liked most about the film is how he keeps us connected through the film's emotional undercurrents, adding a human element that justifies the suspense. Canet may be quite adept at constructing intrigue and mystery, but the heart of Tell No One is what raises it above the competition. This is not a cold, clinical, by the book thriller, it's a movie of nuance and feeling in a thriller's clothing, with characters worth investing two hours in. In fact it reminded me a bit of Michael Haneke's Cache, but not as creepy.

I found the film's use of songs rather than score to convey emotion a tad off-putting at times, but generally it worked well in the context of the film, and some of the flashback scenes are genuinely heartbreaking.

I would like to say that more thrillers are this good, but it's not usually the case. But I'll take what I can get, and Tell No One is a taut, well crafted nail-biter that manages to rise above its genre, and give the audience just a little bit more.

GRADE - *** (out of four)

TELL NO ONE; Directed by Guillaume Canet; Stars Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josee Croze, Kristen Scott Thomas, Marina Hands, Andre Dussollier; Not Rated; In French w/English subtitles

2 comments:

Daniel G. said...

Nice review on one that deserves the attention, even though I wasn't blown away by it. Thanks for reminding me I need to track down the soundtrack.

Matthew Lucas said...

Thanks Daniel. It definitely deserves to be seen. Not one of the year's best, but definitely solid all the way around.