Guillaume Canet | 2006 | 125 mins | France
This tight little thriller starts out quite promising, with the story of a man whose wife was mysteriously snatched while they were away together at the family's lakeside cottage. The man himself (Dr. Alexandre Beck, played by François Cluzet) was hit in the face with a bat, fell in the lake, but later woke up in a hospital not remembering anything. The wife (Marie-Josée Croze) was found mutilated and killed, and everyone assumed she was the unfortunate final victim of a serial killer who was soon captured.
Eight years later, the good doctor (a pediatrician who lives a quiet life) receives an email from an unknown address, with a subject line that refers to a shared moment only his wife could know about. They were childhood sweethearts, after all. They knew each other better than anyone, and until this moment he never doubted that she had been dead all this time. He clicks on it, only to see a clip from a closed circuit security camera in which his wife appears to be standing.
From there, Dr. Beck's life takes a sharp and vertiginous turn for the worse, as new evidence in his wife's murder points to him as a likely culprit. The cops are after him, some shady characters seem to be tailing him, and people are turning up dead. Kristin Scott Thomas is fantastic as Hélène Perkins, Beck's lesbian sister in law. Who the hell new she was fluent enough to carry a leading role in a French film without even the hint of an accent?
Without giving too much away about the film's twists and turns, I have to say that I felt the first half was expertly crafted and full of great action sequences and funny characters (the thug with the hemophiliac son, one of Dr. Beck's patients, for example). Unfortunately, in the final act, when all the mysteries are finally explained, I was left puzzled by a few obvious holes in the internal logic of the film. It tries hard to tie up loose ends, but ends up leaving a few big questions anyway.
Still, I'd recommend this film based on the charm and acting ability of veteran French actor François Cluzet alone. Plus, some of the action sequences and interesting shots make it much more interesting than the average Hollywood thriller. One moment in particular, when Beck slips on some pavement while running and takes a sideways fall, made me cringe more than any gory shootout or punch-up ever could.
Bonus points for the most tense use of an old U2 song in a movie, ever. "With or Without You", in case you were wondering.