In trying to write a summary of Tell No One, I’ve decided, instead, to present the New York Times’ review of it. (Sorry for my laziness…)
In the shortcut language of a movie pitch, Guillaume Canet’s delicious contemporary thriller “Tell No One” is “Vertigo” meets “The Fugitive”by way of “The Big Sleep.” That is meant as high praise.
This French adaptation of Harlan Coben’s 2001 best seller is the kind of conspiracy-minded mystery almost no one seems capable of creating anymore, except David Lynch in his surreal way. Watching it is like gorging on a hot- fudge sundae in the good old days when few worried about sugar and fat. There are no bogus geopolitics weighing it down with a spurious relevance. Beautifully written and acted, “Tell No One” is a labyrinth in which to get deliriously lost.
The story, which involves murder and depravity in high places, is so elaborately twisty that about halfway through the movie you stop trying to figure it out and let its polluted waters wash over you, trusting that the denouement will reveal all. It does and it doesn’t. When the truth spills out, and ugly revelations pile onto one another in an extended final confession, the puzzle pieces fit more snugly than those of “The Big Sleep,” the granddaddy of impenetrable noirs. But one of the pleasures of both films is surrendering to a vision of corruption and evil that resists tidy explanations.
The protagonist, Alex Beck (François Cluzet), is a kindhearted pediatrician in Paris who goes out of his way to help the poor in the clinic where he works. He is also a spiritual cousin of Scottie Ferguson from “Vertigo” in his obsession with a woman who may or may not be dead.
As the story begins, he and his wife, Margot (Marie-Josée Croze), are revisiting the remote country lake where they spent summers as children and became sweethearts who carved their initials on a tree. Blissfully married decades later, they return to swim nude in the moonlight, then sprawl on the offshore raft where they have a minor squabble about real estate. Margot abruptly departs and disappears into the woods. A minute later Alex hears a stifled cry. Scrambling to shore, he is struck on the head while pulling himself out of the water. He remains in a coma for three days.
While Alex, who was inexplicably pulled to shore, recuperates, Margot’s father, Jacques (André Dussollier), an imperious police inspector, identifies his daughter’s body in the woods. In the film’s most wrenching moment Alex comes apart in a drunken reverie remembering her cremation, as Jeff Buckley’s version of the early-’50s torch song “Lilac Wine” is heard on the soundtrack.
On the eighth anniversary of Margot’s death, Alex, still numb with grief, is interrogated by the police after two bodies are unearthed near the site of her murder, along with a key to a safe-deposit box that contains incriminating photos and a bloodstained weapon that connects him to Margot’s death.
Simultaneously, Alex begins receiving anonymous e-mail messages directing him to a Webcam video of a woman who appears to be Margot, gazing anxiously into a surveillance camera. An attached message warns: “Tell no one. They’re watching.” He begins a desperate undercover search for the woman, suddenly believing Margot may still be alive.
“Tell No One” is the second feature film directed by Mr. Canet, whose 2002 satire, “My Idol,” examined the warped mind of a sadistic producer of reality television. In that movie Mr. Canet played the producer’s aspiring young assistant forced to be his boss’s court jester (and his wife’s part-time lover) at a sinister country estate with a carnivorous aviary. Mr. Canet also appears briefly in “Tell No One” as the debauched son of Gilbert Neuville (Jean Rochefort), a billionaire politician and horse-racing magnate whose tentacles extend in every direction. In the film François Berléand, who played the producer in “My Idol,” portrays a sympathetic police investigator in charge of Alex’s case.
The characters encompass a wide swath of Parisian society. Alex’s confidante and best friend, Hélène (Kristin Scott Thomas), is the wealthy lover of his secretive younger sister, Anne (Marina Hands), a competitive equestrian. Through Hélène, Alex acquires a high-powered defense lawyer (Nathalie Baye), who begins to doubt Alex’s innocence after he flees the police.
Just as Alex is about to be taken into custody, a gangster (Gilles Lellouche), whose hemophiliac son’s life was saved by Alex in the clinic, rescues him and spirits him to a safe hiding place in a working-class suburb where young toughs delight in foiling the police. The rescue follows a thrilling chase sequence worthy of “North by Northwest.” Like that 1959 classic, “Tell No One” is about an innocent man on the run with nowhere to turn. Mr. Cluzet may not be Cary Grant, but he is a convincing Everyman with a heart and soul stretched to the breaking point.
“Tell No One” is pure, nasty fun.
This movie was really enjoyable to watch… “Enjoyable” in the sense that I was constantly questioning what was happening and was left completely surprised and satisfied. A.