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Over the past decade the French have proven themselves to be better makers of thrillers.  American thrillers often feel rote or built around mechanical, foregone conclusions.  Previews give away twists or plots are so predictable as to be completely meaningless.  The French still make thrillers the old fashion way.  They build slowly and surely, constructing the story piece by piece, trusting the audience to keep up and not lag behind like chubby school children.  And until
it charges headfirst into a monologue driven ending filled with endless, convoluted explanation, “Tell No One” is a better than average suspense film that runs on a smart screenplay that keeps the viewer intrigued but never completely clued in.  The snag though is that damn ending.

 Alex (Francois Cluzet) is a doctor on vacation with his wife Margot (Marie-Josee Croze) in the French country side.  One night they drive out to a secluded lake for some naughtiness and then fall asleep on a pier.  As their evening begins to slip into not-so-pleasant chit-chat, Margot gets up to go back to the car when Alex hears her scream.  He moves to pursue but is knocked out cold, attacker unseen.  When we next see Alex it is eight years later, he is practicing medicine, Margot long murdered.  On the anniversary of his wife’s death he receives a mysterious e-mail that seems to imply that his wife may not be dead, and suddenly the entire world starts to unravel in a labyrinth of cryptic mystery.  Dangerous people start to come out of the woodwork, the police once again begin to look at Alex with a suspicious eye and bodies begin to pile up on the side.

“Tell No One” works hard to keep the audience interested and guessing, and it doesn’t tip its hand, giving the game away.  The craft on display here is very solid and admirable throughout most of the picture.  Directed by Guillame Canet, he shows a steady assurance and just enough editorial pizzazz, but not so much as to draw attention to
itself needlessly.  Where problems ultimately rear their head is with the already mentioned finale.  Scripted by Canet, adapted from the book of the same name by American author Harlen Coben, the film writes itself into a corner from which it cannot escape.  Canet has strung along so many characters and plot that to resolve them more organically would’ve taken a massive rewrite.  Instead we get a ham-fisted showdown where one character sits down, defies the title of the movie, and tells us everything.  It’s a kind of finale that requires little imagination or craft.  The character in question doing all the explaining could practically tell the viewer anything, and we’re in no real place to dispute any of it because so much of it has been only dealt with peripherally until that moment.  It leaves the viewer wondering if any of the film made sense in the end.  When the big reveal is all over, the biggest problem with all of it is that the central event and characters that drive Alex and Margot apart to begin with are hardly present through out the story.  It leaves the viewer with a nasty sting of meaninglessness.

“Tell No One” is on almost every account an entertaining and deserving film.  The performances are all solid and it avoids so many pratfalls that so many other thrillers routinely slip into, that the ending is so irksome grates so much.  A film like this deserved something just a little more than what it wound up with.  The finale scene is a touching one and redeems things just a touch, but not completely. “Tell No One” gets a recommendation, but one that comes with a stern warning.  Those looking for a film to satisfy from beginning to end will not be happy.

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