An Alternative Guide to Great Movies: Tell No One (2006)
- Credit: Archant
Spectacle counts for a lot these days. Blockbusters claim more media attention than ever before which means that smaller, quirkier films often slip passed unnoticed. Arts editor Andrew Clarke presents a series of idiosyncratic suggestions for movies which may entertain if you are in the mood for something different.
Tell No One, dir Guillaume Canet, Starring: François Cluzet, Kristin Scott Thomas, André Dussollier, François Berléand, Eric Levkowitch, Nathalie Baye, Marina Hands. Cert: 15 (2006)
If you think that French films are slow, wordy, cerebral art films, concerned with domestic incidents or introspective character studies – then think again. Tell No One is one of the best thrillers you are ever likely to see.
It grabs you by the scruff of the neck during the opening sequence and doesn’t let you go until it drops you exhausted but exhilarated by the side of the French highway after the climatic, you didn’t see this coming, action-packed denouement.
This is a film that defies expectations – it works because it delivers the unexpected and keeps you guessing. It manages to be both a suspense drama and an action-film.
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The secret of its success is that it takes a gritty urban American crime novel by Harlan Coben and transplants it to the French countryside and the suburbs of Paris and it works brilliantly because it gives an audience something it hasn’t seen before.
Director and screenwriter Guillaume Canet keeps everything on a tight leash. The editing is taut and rhythmic, the whole film has an edgy breathless quality to it. The story is partly told in flashback and by dropping hints. The audience is fed just enough information to keep us guessing and keep us intrigued.
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The film opens with a seemingly opportunistic murder on the dock of the lake. The wife of an eminent doctor is killed, he is left for dead, apparently as part of a random act of violence. But, nothing is what it seems and years later those events still come back to haunt him.
Leading French actor François Cluzet does a brilliant job as the confused doctor caught up in the middle of something he doesn’t understand. Most modern crime movies focus either on the killer or the detective as their lead character. Here, Guillaume Canet opts for the Hitchcock solution, putting us in the shoes of someone who is trapped in the midst of something bigger than he is, something he can’t control and does know the rules of the game he is being forced to play – think Cary Grant in North By Northwest.
Canet is clearly anxious to keep everything moving and the plot is constantly being revealed bit by bit but the aim of the film is to tease you, to encourage you to second guess what’s going on, to put you in the shoes of the hapless hero.
The cast do a brilliant job at keeping you anchored in the story. You warm to Cluzet’s good, honest doctor and Kristin Scott Thomas, in one of her many French roles, is superb as his cool confidant, his friend and former sister-in-law. She provides both sage advice and shares his immense of loss.
This is a film filled with energy, everything is constantly moving forward, propelled by the story, the editing and the suspense-driven electric guitar soundtrack, recorded in one take by musician Matthieu Chedid as the film was being screened before him.
As Cluzet’s doctor is forced on the run, this sense of momentum is maintain by shots of cars speeding down country lanes, busy streets of Paris, even people running. There is a sense of energy about the film. There are also clear echoes of The Fugitive as an innocent doctor is forced to clear his name.
The film has complex cast of supporting characters which add further details to the intricate plot but Canet knows the story he is telling so well, that these extra characters or the details they uncover never get confusing.
As the film sweeps towards its climax, you are swept along by the tidal wave of events which appear to be spinning out of control until everything is brilliantly and satisfying resolved and you sit there, watching the credits roll and all that is bouncing round your brain is : “Wow – what a movie”.