An art house sensation when it received a belated theatrical release in the U.S in 2008, Guillaume Canet's Tell No One (original title: Ne le dis à personne) has lost none of its power on home video. If anything, the Region A Blu-ray edition, released today by Music Box Films, reinforces and strengthens my very positive reaction to the adaptation of Harlan Coben's novel.
To quote extensively from my July 2008 review:
"Run for your life!" is still the most exciting sentence in the English language, isn't it? Senses start working overtime, adrenaline pumps freely, fingertips tingle.
While that sentence is never uttered in Tell No One, the idea is the film's secret weapon, ready to be unleashed at a moment's notice. The story has a continental sense of quiet foreboding; tension slowly and subtly builds until, as surely as if Tom Cruise's name were attached, the hero must flee on foot.
The French thriller, based on a novel by American author Harlan Coben first published in 2001, has earned terrific reviews and plenty of positive word of mouth since it opened in the US three weeks ago. The film (original title: Ne le dis à personne) opened in its native land away back in November 2006, subsequently winning several César Awards. Happily, Tell No One, while not a perfect film, pretty much lives up to the advance word.
A bucolic, romantic prelude ends in tragedy, and we pick up eight years later as pediatrician Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) still grieves for his dead wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze). As the anniversary of her death approaches, two bodies are found near the lake where Margot was murdered. Alexandre receives a mysterious e-mail that causes him to believe that Margot may still be alive. Alexandre starts to investigate, and so do the police.
Beyond that, I hesitate to reveal any more plot details. Though I don't know how closely the script hews to Coben's novel, it feels very much like a complex, super-involved mystery best explored on paper. Yet screenwriters Philippe Lefebvre and Guillaume Canet extract the most essential points and string them together in a manner that feels logical, even though a few holes become apparent and an extended explanation is needed to tie up most of the loose threads.
What remains is lean and taut, enlivened by strong, flesh and blood performances that give substance to the proceedings. François Cluzet is a terrific everyman character, heartbreakingly in love with his wife, tender and caring as a physician, with an undercurrent of tough emotional cartilage supporting him.
Surrounding him is an unusually deep cast: Kristin Scott Thomas as his sister's lover, Nathalie Baye as his lawyer, François Berléand as the lead police investigator, Jean Rochefort as a wealthy and mysterious presence, André Dussollier as Margot's father, Jalil Lespert in a small but crucial role as a gangster patient, Marina Hinds as Alexandre's sister, and director/co-writer Guillaume Canet in a tiny, despicable part, continuing the unofficial tradition of directors taking on the least likable parts in their movies.
Perhaps because of his experience as an actor, Canet draws good work from his cast, but who taught him how to properly pace and execute a thoughtful thriller? This is, evidently, only his second feature as a director, after Mon Idole in 2002, in which he starred with François Berléand, and demonstrates excellent craftsmanship. The "run for your life" scene is right up there with Kevin Costner racing across Washington D.C. in Roger Donaldson's No Way Out, my previous high water mark for cinematic foot chases. Certain elements of the story and the exciting way it's told are also reminiscent of Andrew Davis' The Fugitive. I consider that film to be one of the best to come out of Hollywood in the 1990s, so I mean that as high praise.
Ignore the title's admonition and tell everyone.
Returning to the present day... Most of the plot details faded from my mind over the past four years, so most of the narrative twists and turns surprised me once again. A second viewing allowed me to appreciate to a greater extent Canet's clever use of film language, shifting points of view, and sometimes startling shots to excellent effect. Tell No One stands the test of time.
I watched the first 10 minutes on the (separately and previously available) DVD, which presented a perfectly acceptable and blemish-free standard definition transfer. Then I popped in the new Blu-ray, which looks exquisitely detailed in high definition: the colors are accurately reproduced, the flesh tones appear warm and appropriately varied, the blacks are inky. Having seen a 35mm print in a local theater that displayed wear and tear, I can state that the Blu-ray looks better than what I saw on the big screen.
Currently I don't have a sound system to match my video set-up, but the French-language audio track sounded fine. The English subtitles -- in white with black borders, my personal favorite -- are well-timed and easy to read.
The Blu-ray carries over the special features previously available on DVD (more than half an hour of deleted scenes, as well as six minutes of outtakes), and adds an excellent 55-minute "making of" featurette that is composed entirely of behind-the-scenes footage, everything from location scouting and production meetings to alternative views when the camera is rolling and music scoring sessions and Canet discussing scenes with the actors and brief interviews with author Harlan Coben and director Canet.
This is a terrific package for a superior motion picture. Highly recommended.