Dir. Guillaume Canet, France, 2006, 131 mins, subtitles
Cast: François Cluzet, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Jean Rochefort
Review by Carol Allen
Based on American writer Harlan Coben's bestseller, this is a character based thriller where the motivating force is not drugs or guns but romance. Alex (Cluzet) is happily married to his childhood sweetheart Margot (Marie-Josée Croze). Early in their marriage she is found brutally murdered. Alex is at first the prime suspect but then a known serial killer is convicted for the crime. Eight years later, the still mourning Alex receives an anonymous link in an e-mail, which leads him to a webcam, where a woman stares into the camera at him. It is Margot's face. Meanwhile, the police have found two more bodies buried near where Margot's body was discovered. They reopen the case with Alex once more as the number one suspect, this time for the bodies in the grave, and as the net tightens around him, he is forced to go on the run, while trying to link up with his beloved wife.
Director and co-writer Canet, best known as one of Leonardo DiCaprio's co-stars in The Beach, has turned what is obviously a very complicated novel into a complicated but still considerably pacey film. It is very well acted, particularly by the charismatic Cluzet in the lead. The main situation is well set up, though there are a large number of characters for us to get to grips with. It takes quite a while, for example, to sort out the fact that Alex's main confidante Hélène (Scott Thomas) is not his new girl friend, not his sister but his sister's lover. One of the most dramatically satisfying relationships in the film is between Alex and tough criminal Bruno ((Gilles Lellouche). Earlier in the story Alex, who is a paediatrician, has saved the life of Bruno's small son and in payment of his debt of honour Bruno helps Alex elude both the police and a group of heavies in the pay of the real killer, who include an impressively scary female torture expert and who are also on his trail. This part of the film also gives an interesting insight into the workings of the Parisian criminal world. There is also a great chase sequence, when Alex is pursued on foot by the police across a busy motorway. Rochefort has a disappointingly small but still important role as the aristocratic owner of the stables where Alex's sister works and Canet himself puts in a cameo appearance as his equestrian champion son.
The machinations of the plot are, however, a bit confusing at times, and the police's gathering of evidence sometimes unconvincing, as for example when they raid Alex's apartment and find a gun, which has been used in yet another murder of which he is suspected. Apart from one rather bright, middle aged detective who, like the audience, smells a rat, the police are surprisingly easily convinced by what is an obvious frame up, while the resolution of the murder mystery, which involves a complicated, dramatised flashback confession, is somewhat long winded and clumsy, rather in the mode of the old fashioned Agatha Christie thriller. The story's transposition from America to France works well and reservations notwithstanding, this is pretty satisfying thriller in the tradition of Chabrol but with more action, which has been a big hit in France.