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  • 15
  • Crime, Drama
  • 2006
  • 125 mins

Tell No One

Tell No One


A man's life is turned upside-down after buried secrets are unearthed. Kristin Scott Thomas features in this French adaptation of the best-selling novel by Harlan Coben


Though best known for his acting role in The Beach, Guillaume Canet is also an accomplished filmmaker, and his second feature Tell No One (Ne Le Dis À Personne) was a phenomenon at the French box office, taking $17 million in its first four weeks.

Superbly adapted by Canet and his co-writer Philippe Lefebvre from the best-selling novel of American crime writer Harlan Coben, Tell No One retains all the slick dynamism and tension of a classic Hollywood thriller without ever seeming anything but French. If an English-language remake already seems inevitable, the irony is that it may lose a certain je ne sais quoi in its translation.

At a secluded lake, Alexandre Beck (Cluzet) is beaten into a coma, while Margot (Croze), the childhood sweetheart whom he has recently married, is abducted and brutally murdered. Police suspicions first fall on Alex himself, but then a local serial killer is apprehended whose peculiar signatures have been found all over the crime scene. Case closed.

Eight years later, a still grieving Alex receives one anonymous e-mail with apparently live footage of Margot standing at a crowded train station, and another message warning him: "Tell no one. They're watching." At about the same time, two more corpses are unearthed at the lake, along with some unexpected new evidence, and Alex soon finds himself on the run, trying to evade both the police and a shadowy group of killers, while also desperate to find out if his beloved wife is really still alive, and what secrets have lain buried for so long.

Not only does Tell No One's leading man François Cluzet bear more than a passing resemblance to a young Dustin Hoffman but, like Hoffman in Marathon Man (1976), he plays a victim of circumstance who must face torture - and do a lot of running. Cluzet's Alex is no gun-toting, wise-cracking hero, but an utterly ordinary man who finds himself in an extraordinary predicament - and as the threat to his well-being is of a more home-grown variety than, say, Nazi dentists in New York, his frantic confusion proves far more effective in engaging the viewer's interest, empathy and even - up to a point - credence.

As tends to be the way with thrillers, nothing here is quite as it seems, and suffice it to say that the eventual solution to the mystery involves the sort of complicated twists and turns that it would be completely impossible to see coming, and criminal to advertise - so that the film's title serves as an instruction to the viewer as much as to the main players. Still, what binds Tell No One together far more than its convoluted plotting are its compelling performances, its breakneck pace, and the human dilemmas and moral conundrums that lie at its noirish core.

There may be hectic chases, fiendish conspiracies, and foul play a-plenty, and the climax may be a suspenseful face-off with revelations delivered down the barrel of a rifle, but the film's quieter, more equivocal coda is all about character, leaving an aroma of melancholy whose elegiac notes lend Tell No One a haunting sort of substance seldom seen in the thriller genre. It is an ending which, much like a lost love, will still stay with you long after it has gone.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jean Rochefort, Marina Hands, François Cluzet, Nathalie Baye, Gilles Lellouche, André Dussollier, Kristin Scott Thomas, François Berléand
  • Director: Guillaume Canet
  • Screen Writer: Guillaume Canet, Philippe Lefebvre
  • Writer (Book): Harlan Coben
  • Producer: Alain Attal
  • Photographer: Christophe Offenstein
  • Composer: Mathieu Chedid

In a nutshell

Canet's thriller blends Hollywood glossiness and Gallic humanism to haunting effect.

by Anton Bitel

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