Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tell No One (2008)

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Tell No One is the story of a doctor who, while browsing the internet at work, receives a strange e-mail from his wife. The catch; she has been dead for eight years. This simple premise at first glance seems like something that should be destined for a month on the big screen and a quick DVD release. The catch; Tell No One is adapted from an American novel, but is shot entirely in French, in France, and by a young director at the helm of only his second film. Director Guillaume Canet brings a fresh, exciting feel to this suspense thriller without resorting to typical Hollywood cliche. The film stars Fran├žois Cluzet as Dr. Alex Beck, who was at first accused but eventually cleared of his wife's brutal murder. Eight years later, he is still grieving when he is mysteriously contacted by her. The police decide to reopen the investigation, and in his attempt to decipher if the message was a cruel hoax or a paranormal phenomenon, he becomes a fugitive of the police. There are many strange characters, all of which are portrayed believably by a strong supporting cast. However, the star is Cluzet who is brilliant as Beck, capturing the humanity of a husband who has lost the love of his life and the acumen of a doctor trying to solve a difficult puzzle under intensely odd conditions. Canet challenges the audience just as Beck is challenged in the film, leading the plot down many sudden twists and sharp turns and dropping little clues along the way. At times the film becomes quite confusing and just when things start to come together, another element is thrown in which completely adjusts the viewpoint. Tell No One is a mystery film on the surface, and a great one at that, but a love story at heart. The suspense of the plot is complemented by flashbacks and imagery which give an emotional depth to the events taking place. Canet is clearly influenced by Hitchcock and American suspense films of the past and creates a blanket of tension that hangs over the audience, building heavier and heavier as the film nears its conclusion. When everything starts to come together for real, the depth in the performances and story make the conclusion, which may be the best final scene of the year, that much more rewarding for the viewer. The film is adapted from a book, and there are some illogical circumstances that were likely a result of condensing a novel into just over two hours of film. The reality of the film is at times sacrificed for continuity, and although this definitely detracts from an otherwise effective portrayal of reality, the performances and script are so strong that the inconceivable situations are largely overshadowed. The basic premise seems stale at first glance, but the inner-workings of this story are very well written and original. Tell No One is the rare thriller that holds you to your seat without insulting you with mindless violence, major plot holes left unexplained, or rehashing the same old scenarios. Its a good thing the script made it past Hollywood to France. Like Guillermo del Toro with Pan's Labyrinth and Juan Antonio Bayona with the Orphanage, Canet stays true to the genre while packing so much depth into the characters ad the story. Foreign directors, of late, seem to be much more capable of providing layers of entertainment, so that the film is not merely a thrill ride but a work of art with the potential to be interpreted and enjoyed on many levels. The French perspective keeps the film fresh, and the combination of a sharp, young director and an extremely talented leading man yield a gripping thriller with more to it than what meets the eye.

Good for: fans of foreign films, people who like mysteries and suspense, a date

Bad for: people who cannot read subtitles

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