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Clever thriller gradually heightens suspense

Clever thriller gradually heightens suspense

In “Tell No One,” we watch as Margot and Alexandre Beck celebrate by going for a nude midnight swim

In “Tell No One,” we watch as Margot and Alexandre Beck celebrate by going for a nude midnight swim in the lake where they played as kids. They are husband and wife, and even before they have a brief squabble, we sense something will happen.

‘Tell No One’

DIRECTED BY Guillaume Canet

SCREENPLAY BY Guillaume Canet and Philippe Lefebvre, based on the novel by Harlan Coben

STARRING François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, André Dussollier, Kristin Scott Thomas, François Berleand, Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort and Marina Hands

RATED R

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes

Eight years later, the facts begin to unravel in this tantalizing thriller, which has done boffo business in Europe, especially in France, where it was made and first released.

It’s the kind of movie you want to see again, not because it is confusing but because it is so richly structured and imagined. It has that Hitchcockian flair, and you’d swear that this was not French at all, a notion verified when we learn it’s based on a mystery novel by American writer Harlan Coben.

Unlike too many American products, Guillaume Canet’s film dares to take its time, creating tension not only with violence and chases, but with smarts, as in the clever use of imagination. Without resorting to cute and contrived methods, it lures us in with a variety of characters — not only cops, thugs and lawyers, but various family members, including Margot’s father, forced to identify her when she is found dead. During that midnight swim, someone apparently knocked out Alexandre; later, he is found unconscious on the dock.

Gritty portrayal

Not surprisingly, some detectives still suspect Alexandre, played with smart, determined grit by Francois Cluzet, who in stature and demeanor resembles a younger Dustin Hoffman. We, too, may wonder about his complicity, but when we meet him, there he is — a compassionate pediatrician. Smarting from his loss, he has not remarried. Still, we cannot be sure he is innocent.

Soon, mysterious e-mails show up on his computer, suggesting Margot is still alive. We meet his sister (Marina Hinds) and her lover, played by Kristin Scott-Thomas. One of them is harboring some crucial information.

Canet does not take the easy way out. Tensions are not contrived, but seem organic to the mystery at hand. No character is wasted, certainly not the father of a hemophiliac the doctor treats in the first scene. He’s a gang member who will come in handy, and he is a sympathetic character to boot. You can bet other characters we meet early on will play important roles in the final mix.

“Tell No One” grows on you, even after a first screening. It is both a dignified and rarified treat.

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