Grown-ups eager to see just a good movie, plain and simple, are urged to find their way to "Tell No One," a crafty, swift, subtly stylish thriller from French director Guillaume Canet.
Frans Cluzet, who could be a dead ringer for Dustin Hoffman's Paris cousin, plays pediatrician Alex Beck, who is embroiled in a brutal crime and then, eight years later, becomes re-embroiled. Pursued by legal and extra-legal authorities, Alex must rely on his wits as well as the support of his sister Anne (Marina Hands) and her longtime lover, Helene (the terrific Kristin Scott Thomas), as well as some unlikely allies in the criminal underworld of Paris' less-than-chic precincts. That's enough plot for now - it's just that surprising and intricate a movie.
Canet, at 35 already an accomplished actor, adapts Harlan Coben's novel with supreme control and a tautly calibrated pacing. With this summer's surfeit of movies that do little more than go "boom," it bears reminding audiences that some filmmakers are still capable of delivering clean, unfettered narratives that, without benefit of computerized effects, bombastic sound design, in-your-face close-ups or other cheats, manage to grab you by the throat and never let go. (Speaking of sound, "Tell No One" is propelled by an unusually hip soundtrack, featuring cuts from the likes of Otis Redding, Jeff Buckley and U2.)
In addition to his gift for telling a whopping good story, Canet evinces here an astute eye for casting: "Tell No One" stars some of the most talented and attractive actors working in France today, including Marie-Josee Croze, Nathalie Baye as Alex's cool-as-a-cuke attorney and Gille Lellouche as the rough-hewn father of one of Alex's patients. Scott Thomas, who plays Alex's sister-in-law (France recognizes civil partnerships), delivers a particularly smashing performance here, as one of the few people the physician can trust. She's been so good in (mostly French) supporting roles lately, this outing will surely make her many admirers long to see her take a well-deserved lead again soon.
As "Tell No One" exerts its ever-tightening hold, the action reaches a terrific climax by way of a spectacular chase scene through the city streets (and one cafe). But even then, events continue to take their circuitous, baffling course until all is revealed in the inevitable third-act resolution. Sadly, the palpable sense of tension and foreboding that Canet has created is all but dissipated by that preposterous, fatally contrived final twist. But that's a mere hiccup and easily forgiven in a film that has carried filmgoers along with such superb assurance. For an absorbing, sophisticated cinematic diversion as the dog days approach, filmgoers could do a whole lot worse.