Tell No One

Tell No One
Director: Guillaume Canet
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
EuropaCorp. Distribution (France)/Music Box Films (USA)

Overview: Eight years after his wife is brutally murdered, a man finds himself under suspicion when two bodies are found near the site of the original crime, and he starts receiving messages indicating his wife might still be alive.

Tell No One is a 2006 French film adaptation of the Harlan Coben novel by the same name. As a mystery and thriller fanatic, I will readily admit that Coben is one of my favorite modern day suspense writers, with his fast-paced storytelling and reputation for layering  twists and turns. Any attempt to bring one of his novels from page to screen will earn an excited, yet scrutinizing viewing from me, and Tell No One is not only one of the most satisfying book adaptations, but also one of the most fun, perfectly-paced genre films I’ve seen in years.

Guillaume Canet, as both director and screenwriter, succeeds in both preserving and infusing additional Hitchcockian influences atop of what is already present in the structure of this story.  Our protagonist, Alexandre Beck (a sympathetically frantic and likable François Cluzet) is the everyday man caught in the middle of an elaborate frame that turns his life upside down, sparking a game of cat and mouse and a series of twists and turns reminiscent of classics like Vertigo. And although the increasingly absurd and convoluted plot has the potential to slip into the realm of preposterous, the narrative is so tightly wound and the action is so restrained that it’s easy to just hop in and let this film take you for a ride.

There are no dramatic special effects or high speed car chases to be witnessed here, just a quick tempo, sharp dialogue, and a superb supporting cast featuring characters equally as intriguing as the star.  This film is stripped down more than your average thriller, relying on camerawork, performances and the writing to draw us in rather than the action.  When the intensity ramps up, the stakes are evident by closeups of the sweat dripping down Beck’s face, or the panic in his eyes, rather than gun shots or explosions.

Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) is sharp, sexy, and steals every scene as Hélène Perkins, the wife of Beck’s sister and the only one who believes his story. Cluzet more than holds his own as Beck, the devoted husband who clings to any indication that his wife might still be alive. He’s an easy underdog to root for, and it’s impossible not to cross your fingers that the good guy will surely win.

Rumors have been flying around for years that Hollywood is planning to attempt an American remake of Tell No One, and if that ever happens, we can only hope it holds a candle to this nearly perfect adaptation.