French thriller Tell No One stays two steps ahead of its audience, twisting and turning through revelations that are unexpected but never unearned. A rare modern mystery with emotional heft and complex characters to complement its thrills, Tell No One recalls classic works by Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed. Beautifully shot and directed by Guillaume Canet, Tell No One is relentlessly crafty but never heavy handed thanks to Canet and Philippe Lefebvre's nimble adaptation of Harlan Coben's novel. An idyllic summer night is cut short when doctor Alexandre Beck's wife is brutally murdered and he is badly beaten. Beck survives to quell suspicions that he was involved in the killing, and eventually moves on a broken man. Eight years later, cops uncover more bodies near the crime scene, and Beck receives an e-mail from someone purporting to be his dead wife.
François Cluzet, channeling a younger Dustin Hoffman, plays longsuffering Dr. Beck, who dealt with his wife's death while being grilled about how he managed to drag himself from a lake while unconscious. Beck is close with sisters Hélène (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Anne (Marina Hands), and confides in Hélène when he receives an e-mail with images of his wife, Margot (Marie-Josée Croze), looking older and very much alive. Beck finds himself under surveillance after police uncover two additional bodies at the old crime scene, and begins his own investigation into facts overlooked eight years prior. Feisty litigator Elysabeth Feldman (Nathalie Baye) works to keep Beck out of jail, and Beck finds a lone friend in skeptical investigator Eric Levkowitch (François Berléand).
Canet sets his film far above generic thrillers in the opening frames, shooting a beautiful dinner party before scoring Alexandre and Margot's passion with the sounds of Otis Redding. Entwined since youth, Alexandre and Margot document their love affair with marks in the bark of a tree. Margot's murder devastates Alexandre, who struggles to find meaning in life without his wife. The e-mail is a cruel bit of hope, and Hélène warns her brother to keep his head out of the confusion. Tell No One thrives on this confusion; throwing its audience into the storm alongside Beck. Canet moves furiously through the twisted narrative, but gives each scene room to breathe, never sacrificing tone and character motivation for cheap reveals.
Tell No One is not the film to see if you insist on correctly predicting each plot twist. The film dares you try, then pulls back the curtain to reveal something completely unexpected. But, Tell No One is no rule-breaking hypocrite; its narrative is airtight and it never misleads the audience with false information. Little in cinema is more infuriating than a film that disregards its entire build-up to "shock" its audience with a twist that negates everything that came before. Tell No One consciously avoids such tactics, instead weaving a complex web of intrigue with thoughtfully dropped clues and pointed character interactions.
The characters in Tell No One are a large part of its appeal. Beck is a complex and sympathetic lead - Cluzet's performance is fantastic - and the film paints a vivid picture of its fallen heroine. Beck's sisters are important supporting characters, and Tell No One involves them heavily in the plot while keeping the action focused on Beck. Bit players like Levkowitch and Bruno (Gilles Lellouche), the gangster father of Beck's patient, are entertaining additions to the mix, as is Margot's still-grieving father (André Dussollier). Canet's skillful direction plus Christophe Offenstein's beautiful cinematography produce an accomplished final product that is as handsome as it is exciting. Tell No One is a superior thriller, with excellent performances across the board and no shortage of tension. The comparisons to Hitchcock are earned, and Tell No One is equally effective on repeat viewings as it is at first glance.
Note: This December 2012 Blu-ray release from Music Box Films appears to be the exact same disc released in 2009 that went out of print.
Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p/VC-1-encoded transfer complements Offenstein's beautiful cinematography. Canet uses high-contrast highlights and sun-drenched landscapes to tell his story, and shifts to cloaking the action in menacing shadows when necessary. Detail is uniformly excellent, with fine textures that display that coveted HD "pop" and plenty of deep backgrounds. Shadows never rob the image of detail, and black levels remain solid without crushing the action. A bit of softness creeps in a times, but I noticed no intrusive artificial sharpening or edge enhancement. There is a bit of banding and a couple of print imperfections but nothing to seriously detract from the presentation.
Since this release is identical to the original Blu-ray, there is still no lossless surround option. The Blu-ray includes a lossy French 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a lossless French 2.0 LPCM stereo mix. Both mixes are fine, but the absence of a high-definition surround track is disappointing. Both mixes offer clear dialogue; with the LPCM mix having a slight edge in clarity and separation. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is more immersive, and provides some nice surround response for ambient and action effects. Both mixes appropriately balance dialogue, effects and score, and the Dolby Digital mix only lacks the added power of a lossless encode. An English 2.0 Dolby Digital dub track is included, as are English and French subtitles.
Extras include Tell No One: The B-Side (55:48/SD), a worthwhile behind-the-scenes documentary that relies on fly-on-the-wall footage from the shoot. This is much better than the typical EPK fluff on most releases, and the piece covers effects, acting, on-set injuries and the story. The disc also includes a number of deleted scenes (34:06/SD), which are interesting but wisely removed to maintain the film's tight pace, and outtakes (5:58/SD).
Tell No One is a superb thriller that consistently stays ahead of its audience without resorting to nonsensical twists. Director Guillaume Canet and his excellent cast create a film with emotional impact, humor and tension that deserves its comparison to the works of Hitchcock. Music Box's re-released Blu-ray features excellent picture quality, the same lossy surround mix and a couple of interesting extra features. Highly Recommended.