More reminiscent of Hitchcock's progeny than of the master's own films, Cedric Kahn's intelligently menacing thriller combines Brian DePalma's sexy style with the ice-cold cool tone of Claude Chabrol and the sense of mounting panic George Sluizer exploited in THE VANISHING (1988). It's les grandes vacances season, and as much of Paris begins relaxing into an extended summer holiday, Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and his wife, Helene (Carole Bouquet), prepare to drive down to the Basque country, where they'll pick up their two children from summer camp and spend the next two weeks with Helene's parents. Even before the couple leaves home, however, trouble begins. Chafing at the passive role he's forced to play in his marriage and jealous of the time Helene spends with a male coworker, Antoine has grown moody and irascible; he avails himself of every opportunity to slip off to the nearest cafe for a quick drink. It's not that Antoine is a boozer, more that he's decided drinking scotch is something real men do and from now on, he's going to act like a real man. With the car radio tuned to reports of holiday traffic jams, road fatalities and a dangerous convict who's just escaped from prison, Antoine and Helene leave Paris. True to form, Antoine refuses to let Helene drive, and once the traffic begins to thicken he insists on taking "the back way." He also refuses to consult a map for directions. Antoine refuses to turn around after they miss the exit for Tours, and when Helene dares to open her mouth he stops at a roadside bar, orders her to stay put and goes inside for a drink. Further down the road, Antoine pulls into a second bar, but this time when he returns to the car, Helene has disappeared. There are few things more dangerous than an insecure man with something to prove, and Kahn allows this fiendishly suspenseful fable to unfold in its own good time, spinning it out over the course of one dark night and into the following morning. Based on a novel by the French crime master Georges Simenon, this is terror by accretion: The endless line of glowing red brake lights ahead, the glaring headlights behind and the psychological tension within the capsule of the car combine to create a poisonous atmosphere that gradually seeps out and pervades the entire film. Patrick Blossier's camera, meanwhile, glides along the back roads of southern France like an expensive auto en route to a nightmare.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: More reminiscent of Hitchcock's progeny than of the master's own films, Cedric Kahn's intelligently menacing thriller combines Brian DePalma's sexy style with the ice-cold cool tone of Claude Chabrol and the sense of mounting panic George Sluizer exploited… (more)