An agile murder mystery informed by Hollywood thrillers and French detective serials, Guillaume Canet’s sophomore effort moves at just the right velocity to keep viewers interested and guessing. Sweet widower Alex (François Cluzet) evades cops, evil henchmen pursue him while avoiding police and throughout, the puzzling details of Alex’s wife’s (Marie-Josée Croze) disappearance are taken apart and reassembled.
Despite a penchant for flashy and elaborate Parisian set pieces (a public park stake-out, an airport nail-biter, a beltway-crossing foot chase), this stylishly filmed action-mystery hybrid (and all the Césars — French Oscars — it won) is a testament to that country’s ongoing love of all things American, a muscle-bound blockbuster running along the Seine wearing a ‘J’aime Paris’ T-shirt. The novel it’s based on is American (Harlan Coben’s New York-set story of the same name), its foot chase is lifted right out of the Bourne series, and its style-shifting cinematography is tried-and-true Hollywood stuff. Crane shots swirl around gold-lit characters in romantic moments of magical realism, jittery handheld spasms track our doctor hero on the run from would-be killers and cops, and tense silences and dramatic arguments happen in eerily still cold-blue close-ups.
Most blatantly, however, the cast features a checklist of nods to U.S.-brand political correctness: lesbians are polite upper-class ladies (one played by apparently-fluent-French-speaker Kristen Scott Thomas), immigrants are disenfranchised, gruff and gold-hearted (and always willing to help a saintly middle-aged white protagonist), old people are mean, rich people are evil, and old rich people will stop at nothing to kill you and everyone you know. To Canet’s (and editor Stratos Gabrielidis) credit, however, it’s easy to miss Tell No One’s moralistic tokenism, as those parts rarely stop moving long enough for us to notice their one-dimensionality. Ultimately, class concerns end up carrying the film to its conclusion, and the opposition between our upwardly mobile hero and an aristocratic politician adds some populist satisfaction to the climactic payoff.