It's funny how things work out sometimes. Just a couple weeks ago a family member put a book into my hand and said "You've simply GOT to read this; it's fantastic." It was "Tell No One," a thriller by Harlan Coben. I figured I'd take a chance and started reading it that night. A couple hours later, I was halfway through it. The next morning, I finished it. She was right: the book moved like a shot, was superbly plotted with great characters and even better writing. A truly gripping read and one of the best suspense novels I've read in awhile. In thinking about it, I thought I remembered reading about a film adaptation of it, a foreign one. I looked it up and I was right; it had been made in France. Even better, it had just been released Stateside on DVD only the week before. Couldn't have asked for better timing, right? So I immediately ran down to my local video store and picked it up, but I truly had no idea what Tell No One had in store for me, even having had JUST read it.
Dr. Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet) and his wife Margot (Marie-Josee Croze), childhood sweethearts, are taking a lovely lakeside getaway. One night they're at the lake, relaxing on a wooden raft when they have a small argument; Margot swims to shore, upset. Then Beck hears her screaming his name. He swims to shore in time to get beaten unconscious badly enough to end up in a coma. When he awakens, he finds that Margot was found dead - the latest victim of a vicious serial killer.
Cut to eight years later: Beck is a pediatrician who is warm, open and friendly with his young patients. In his private life he's lonely and dead inside with only one true companion, his dog. His best friend is still his sister's lesbian partner Helene (Kristin Scott Thomas), whom he rarely sees. Once a year he visits his dead wife's parents, who seem to want him to move on; sadly, Beck cannot. But one day he receives an email with a link to what appears to be a security camera showing live footage of a busy city street. As he watches, a woman comes into frame and turns her head to look into the camera for a long moment before walking away, and Beck freezes like a statue. The woman in the video is his wife Margot. Soon he receives another email that says only, "Tell no one - they're watching." In addition, other strange things have been happening recently; a few days before, two bodies were found buried beside the lake where Beck was attacked and his wife disappeared. Other new evidence has come to light that have the police taking a long hard look at Beck for his wife's murder (he had been the prime suspect eight years earlier, before it was decided that the serial killer was the culprit). And in the background, some VERY unpleasant people are lurking and doing equally unpleasant things to people who may or may not have something to do with what happened all those years ago. Before long, Beck finds himself running for his life and hoping against hope that Margot is, in fact, alive. . .but will he be able to stay alive himself to reunite with her?
Tell No One is - and I say this honestly, without hyperbole - a thriller of the highest caliber. Director Guillaume Canet (who adapts Coben's novel and acts in a small, yet pivotal, role) has fashioned a tightly constructed, gripping film that in its best moments - of which there are legion - recalls the glories of Hitchcock. It's one of those flicks that piles shocking twist upon startling development upon breathtaking "gotcha" moments. I may have laid out quite a bit (it would seem) in my synopsis, but I promise, I've barely scratched the surface of what this flick has in store for you. If there were any plot holes, I was too close to falling off the edge of my seat to notice them; this baby MOVES. Even the smaller, quieter scenes are wonders of economy, superb characterization and wonderfully effective dialogue. Which, speaking of, it was a real treat to have read the novel only days before watching this movie and then see - in huge chunks - much of the subtitled dialogue taken virtually word for word from the book. It's an amazingly faithful adaptation; while there are quite a few details that have been changed (character names, certain occupations and settings differ, etc.), none of it is anything that alters the points that truly matter. Everything in the flick that was changed doesn't matter in the least when it comes to the intent of the story; in fact, there is one thing in particular that I remember wishing had happened in the book that DOES happen in the movie, which was awesome to see.
The acting is top-notch as well. Cluzet in particular shines - it's pretty easy to say that if the actor in this part doesn't get it done, the movie falls apart. We need to see Beck's resourcefulness as well as his Everyman persona, his longing and his need to believe that his wife is alive. Cluzet - who bears a striking similarity to Dustin Hoffman while being more likeable, somehow - hits every possible note with quiet, understated dignity and grace. I wasn't surprised at all to learn that he won the Cesar (France's Oscar, basically) for Best Actor for this part - additionally, while the movie itself may have lost the Best Picture race, it did win Canet the Best Director statue, Best Editing, and was nominated in three other categories. Getting back to the acting, while Croze isn't in the movie that much, she is still the engine that drives the whole movie and it's easy to see why Beck loves her so much; Croze is absolutely lovely. Kristin Scott Thomas (who speaks French wonderfully) is impressive in her role, as is Francois Berleand (of The Transporter flicks), playing the police detective who begins to believe that Beck may be innocent of the crimes leveled against him. Actually, I'll just say that all the actors involved are fantastic, lest I spend another hundred words praising them all - but I do have to mention Gilles Lellouche as a criminal who feels indebted to Beck; the guy is simply awesome in his supporting role.
The DVD from MPI has a great 2.35:1 transfer and quite the robust audio mix for a thriller such as this. I have no idea about the English dub, since I watched the original French track, but I can testify that the subtitles, once again, come mostly from the novel and testify to a painstakingly faithful translation. The special features are fairly light, consisting of deleted scenes made up of mostly character moments (which don't take away from the movie at all, and actually help the movie's pace work better - the filmmakers did a really good job of keeping everything they could from the book but the running time still reaches 2 hours and 10 minutes that feels like an hour and a half) and a collection of outtakes.
All I know to say is that this is one truly outstanding film. It's got the emotion and the intrigue as well as some surprising moments of violence and action - in particular, there's a foot/car chase that leave your muscles sore after watching it. Harlan Coben's distinctively American suspense novel has proven to be a universally exciting tale that couldn't have been told any better, European flavor or no. Tell No One is an absolute triumph, and a movie that anyone who loves a good mystery should run to check out.