- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008

Combine the tricky twists and turns of the American thriller with the subtlety and sophistication of French cinema and you have “Tell No One” (“Ne le dis a personne”), a highly charged piece of work that grabs you by the neck and doesn’t let go.

“Tell No One” is a French production, directed and co-written by actor Guillaume Canet (“The Beach”), but based on the novel by American author Harlan Coben. The French embraced the alliance; the film won four Cesars (the French Oscars), including best director and best actor, and was nominated for five more. Now, two years after the film was made, it’s the Americans’ turn.

The film opens with Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet, “French Kiss”) and his wife Margot (Marie-Josee Croze, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) at a secluded lake, celebrating the anniversary of their first kiss, which the duo shared as childhood sweethearts.

Their perfect happiness is abruptly disturbed, however, when Margot is brutally murdered and Alex winds up in a coma after attempting to rescue her.

Fast forward eight years later. Alex, a pediatrician who has a way with working-class families, is still traumatized by his wife’s death. As the anniversary of that day approaches, his memories are stirred even more by the discovery of two more bodies near the lake. Some strange circumstances lead the police to wonder if Alex actually killed them along with his wife. Alex, though, is wondering whether anyone killed her: He gets an e-mail with video showing his wife, looking eight years older than the last time he saw her. Assisted by his sister’s smart and wealthy lover (Kristin Scott Thomas, “The English Patient”) - with the police and other heavies also in pursuit - he tries to discover the truth.

Mr. Cluzet plays a troubled everyman pursued by forces he doesn’t understand, much like Cary Grant’s character in “North by Northwest.” In a gripping performance, the French actor is just as good at earning our sympathy, not least because “Tell No One” is both a consuming thriller and a moving love story at the same time. The plot is clever, and despite minimal information about who some of the characters even are at first, you’ll find it nearly impossible to leave the theater for a bathroom or snack break. However, it’s when Mr. Cluzet confronts someone with information, calmly yet desperately saying, “Have you any idea how much I miss [my wife]?” that the film really hits home.

The writers gild the lily a bit too much at the end - even Alex’s father, until then barely mentioned in the film, turns out to have a part in the complicated plot. You’ll be so relieved to finally have two hours of agreeable tension dissipated to notice, though.

TITLE: “Tell No One” (“Ne le dis a personne”)

RATING: Unrated (brief nudity and violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Guillaume Canet. Written by Mr. Canet and Philippe Lefebvre based on the novel by Harlan Coben. In French with English subtitles.

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes

WEB SITE: www.tellnoonemovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS