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Released: 21st July 2017

Directed By: Thomas Kruithof

Starring: Francois Cluzet

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Even if you’re not a regular viewer of World Cinema, odds are you may well recognise François Cluzet for his face-on-the-poster turn in breakout French hit Untouchable. Here though, he’s swapping out his faultless comedic chops for something a touch more Cary Grant, with a headlining turn in the nail-biting – if, admittedly, rather nuts-n-bolts – Hitchcockian thriller, Scribe (La mécanique de l’ombre).

The stylishly old-fashioned tale sees Cluzet’s unemployed Duval taking on a too-good-to-be-true admin role for the mysterious – and visibly sinister – Clément (Denis Podalydès), spending his days transcribing audio tapes of tapped phone calls. When the subject of one of his recordings turns up dead however, it’s merely the first of a number of criminal dalliances that force Duval to search desperately for a way out of a world with which he’s unwittingly become entangled, and will fight like hell to keep him in their grasp.

Very much a love song of sorts to old Hollywood thrillers the likes of which you’d often see, for instance, Jimmy Stewart, Scribe lays out its twisty and turny plot with calculated efficiency and its eye going no further than where it can take you for schlocky suspenseful fun. Cleverly going out of its way to remain period non-specific, a timeless sensibility serves its unabashed adulation for a good ol’ fashioned wrong-guy-in-the-wrong-place tale nicely, and its a tone Cluzet effortlessly accommodates in the lead.

Cluzet offers up an intriguing and immensely watchable everyman, Yann Gozlen and director Thomas Kruithof’s screenplay enjoyable in its indulgence of its influences to the point of lip-biting smiles. That fun’s infectious though, as Duval’s desperately weaselling efforts to break free of his criminal shackles spiral ever further away from him. Kruithof’s careful to keep it slick though, and with some striking visuals from Alex Lamarque, Scribe perches you on the edge of your seat just as often as it allows you to get comfy and bask in its old school turns.