Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NE LE DIS À PERSONNE (TELL NO ONE): MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, Kristin Scott Thomas, Marina Hands
Director: Guillaume Canet
Country: France
Language: French
Runtime: 125 min.
Rating: ****
Genre: Thriller

        Tell No One is a solid old-fashioned thriller Hollywood used to make so well, and as it sprints along you wouldn’t necessarily understand everything not because the film is some devilish Rubik’s Cube but for the simple reason you’re not exactly supposed to be solving it yourself whilst you’re watching it. But you will, because the film is so thrillingly and so grippingly constructed you wouldn’t be able to help yourself from wondering how does this all bloody fit. In its own world, it all fits in quite tight at the end when an important character sits upon the couch quite comfortably with a glass of alcohol and unravels the whole mystery for you. There’re puzzling developments all along the way where you might have to shake your head just to take that extra bit of information, and the final revelation has twists and turns galore at the end waiting. There’re a couple of bonus ones thrown in too, just in case or maybe just to impress you. You’ll probably like it, hell I liked it, and at the same time I’ll still maintain that when you find yourself with the need to have one of your characters unleash a lengthy discourse on what and why whilst you support him by providing the audience with visual imagery, it is time to rewrite the damn thing. If not anything else, you’ll at least end up making a great thriller.
        And let me tell you, and tell this to everyone, Tell No One is the next best thing, a fantastic thriller. Its kind needs that discourse at the end because the devil is in the details, of what monster is being concealed from us and one which set things into motion.
        Let me give you a feel of things. Alexander Beck (Cluzet), a doctor, in the eyes of the cops is his wife’s murderer for sure. Margot (Croze, Munich, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) has been dead for eight years when the couple went up the lake and things turned ugly. One moment they were warm and cozy together under the moon, the next moment she gets up, jumps in to the river, swims across, gets up to the pier, puts her dress on, and walks into the grasses towards the grass. Alex is still lying there lost in the nostalgia of childhood memories of him and Margot, they were friends from when little you see. You’ll learn that the film is quite generous and keeps throwing at you gifts galore even when you aren’t asking. The whole children arc is just one of them. It never quite sticks but I didn’t mind it either. I’m not sure I did any.
        Now, back to story and back to the lake on that fateful night. Alex hears a scream and he jumps into the water and rushes towards the pier. He hears Margot calling out his name, and just as he sets foot on wood, someone knocks him back into the water senseless. And he’s found unconscious, and curiously on land.
        Now you wouldn’t fault the cops for zooming in their collective scope on Alex, because hey, how could a man rendered unconscious swim back out of the water. Things stink, and they stink bad and the cops get nothing. The wife’s murder is pinned on a local serial killer, but the cops have one slant gaze fixed on him forever. Cut to eight years. Construction workers unearth two dead bodies, both males, not far from the sight. And, from the pockets of one of them something is picked up which would bring Alex smack back into the center of focus. And, Alex receives a mail.
        And there, you have your set up in place, with the lure of a complex maze.
        There’s a chase sequence on foot that is one of the best I have seen in ages. Clear, if not plausible probable for sure, and more importantly it tells you something so deep about Alex’s desperate state of mind. For a film like Tell No One to work, we need to be ready to invest ourselves in our man on the run, and that would only occur if we feel he’s worthy of it. Cluzet, who looks like middle-aged Hoffman (maybe because I just finished watching Perfume), isn’t Harrison Ford (The Fugitive). His Alex, at times, feels even more helpless and vulnerable and we thank to God he has good friends so very ready to help him. The best part about the performance is that Cluzet’s Alex isn’t a man on steam venting it out on his surroundings and breaking down every which where. You know he believes in lot more than he says, you feel he is repressing a lot of emotions. How else will be a man who hasn’t remarried and apparently has even had so much as a girlfriend all these years? That is what makes the final sequence quite special.
        Actors around him only need to be serviceable and they do a bang up job. Casting of recognizable faces is of paramount importance for any good thriller involving a lot of characters, and it helps when they are introduced through the S.O.P. of exquisite close ups. If you pay close attention, the more important ones register themselves thus by doing something notable. You’ll realize quite early that the small time gangster friend of Alex who creates such a ruckus at the hospital for his son would be pretty significant in the scheme of things in store for us. And the film doesn’t disappoint using him in plenty. It becomes so necessary in such a crowded place to pay heed to who has the beard and who is the balding man with glasses, and having recognizable actors does half the job.
        So, let me stop here, you know, because it is a thriller and less said the better. Let me give you a hint though, to help you connect the dots if you decide to watch this film. To whatever scene, ask yourself, why is it on the screen? Does it exist for an emotional response or is it a thread we don’t see the starting point of? Of course, that would be a wrong way to start watching the film, but once you’re sucked in you might need my cue. When the denouement comes, we already know who the big guy is, that is the bad guy. He was already shown on two occasions previously, one when we don’t realize anything and one when the film reveals him as the guy. That is what sucked half the juice out of the how and why discourse for me. I’m not sure why, but I think it is because I feel the second occasion should have played a lot earlier or shouldn’t have played at all. I respect a film that is laying bare ‘who’ before everyone and is trying to only thread the ‘how and ‘why’, but I guess when you already have a revelation at the end of it all clubbing them altogether makes for more impact.

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