DVD Sans laisser de traces

DVD Sans laisser de traces
Run time: 95 min
Rating: 6.5
Genres: Crime | Drama | Thriller
Director: Grégoire Vigneron
Writers: Laurent Tirard, Grégoire Vigneron
Stars: Benoît Magimel, François-Xavier Demaison, Julie Gayet
Etienne Meunier is a successful businessman who has money and a beautiful wife. But all is not well in Etienne’s immaculate life. He is troubled by a secret that he has been hiding.
Country: France, Belgium
Release Date: 10 March 2010 (France)


  1. Étienne Meunier (Benoît Magimel) is a young executive who has everything going for him. His career is skyrocketing and he is about to become #1 at work, he is married to a picture-perfect wife, has a dream home and money. To top it off, he's charming, healthy and everyone likes him and seems to consider him "a great guy". But beneath the surface, not everything is perfect. Meunier feels some pressure at work, knowing others eye his future position and he and his wife have been unable to have children so far. One day, Meunier bumps into a childhood friend, Patrick Chambon (François-Xavier Demaison) and the two resume their friendship, despite Chambon having struggled as a petty criminal. With mounting pressure on him, Meunier confides to Chambon the secret of his success. He built his career on a lie, stealing a soap formula from someone and can't get over it. His long lost friend tries to help but sets off a chain of events that threatens everything Meunier holds dear.

    At its heart, Sans laisser de traces is very much the classic story of a protagonist being held back by another character close to him. The more Chambon tries to help, the more complicated things get for Meunier but the more difficult it is to dissociate himself from his "friend". Despite the story being constructed like a fairly conventional thriller, director Grégoire Vigneron does a good job building characters in shades of grey, never taking things over the top and turning this into a clear cut situation.

    At the center of it all is Étienne Meunier, played expertly by Magimel, who sheds his blockbuster aura for this character, much like Harrison Ford did in the early 90s by taking on more fallible roles (Regarding Henry and Presumed Innocent). At no point are we manipulated into thinking Meunier is pure as snow, nor does he turn into a simple crook. We simply witness a man who is willing to do the right thing but also explores the possibility of wronging others if it might help him save his own skin.

    Other elements throughout the story also hint that Meunier may not be such a great guy. After all, the woman he married is the daughter of his current (soon former) boss and a lot of his pleasant personality may seem calculating at times. All these things prevent the movie from simply being "another thriller" and instead offer a more dramatic experience.

    If there was something missing for me, it was in the character of Chambon, Meunier's friend. For one, actor Demaison did not wow me with this performance and I felt at times, the chemistry was a bit lacking between these two actors. Much of the plot and events unfolding depend on Chambon's actions and suggestions and the actor did not "sell me" on the character.

    Overall, Sans laisser de traces remains a fairly entertaining take on a somewhat classic plot structure. It never becomes embarrassing or too far-fetched. Several peripheral characters (played by a solid cast) keep things interesting and lifelike. However, nothing here is truly memorable and its resolution feels a little too neatly tied up for my liking.

    Because of this, I recommend it as a rent but I doubt I would watch it more than once.

  2. The film's title translation as traceless, or as the subtitles on my DVD suggested, immaculate, represents the film's main theme. A character (Etienne) who appears immaculate and without trace of flaws is nursing a guilty secret that taints his success. The secret is rather ironic: he stole a recipe for a soap that removes spots and has become the major best selling brand of the company he works for. On the back of his theft for the spot remover Etienne's ascendancy within the company has been rapid and he is about to be promoted to its top position. That is until he meets someone (Patrick) he knew from school.

    Unlike Etienne Patrick's life has been unsuccessful and he enters Etienne's life like a Fury threatening to destroy it. As the film progresses we witness Etienne's life collapsing around him and wait for it to implode. In this way the plot reminded me of a Patricia Highsmith novel where try as he might the protagonist seems only able to worsen his fate.

    The film is good. Its theme is played very well making the audience delight in Etienne's problems as they mount. Where it falters is, as others have written, with the character of Patrick who is sort of Etienne's nemesis but he is never played that way. Had he been envious and vengeful then his character would have felt fuller but it leaves one unsure as to who or what Patrick was and why Etienne cared about him enough to listen to him in the first place.

    The ending destroys the audience's expectations of Etienne's mounting fate; by the end his crimes have become traceless. I thought this worked well and smirked at how the director and writer had built the audience into believing Etienne was finally facing his fate and then … he escapes! This seems a pretty accurate fable of subverted morality that fits the powerful money men of our present times.

  3. It's not a drama, neither a crime movie. Just the story of a budding young executive – Magimel, ambitious and somewhere ruthless, who realizes that he made some mistakes: stealing the formula of a famous industrial product from a poor chemist. In the meanwhile, he meets by chance an old friend of his – Demaison, and talks to him about his guiltiness feelings. Demaison advises his pal to go to the chemist and tell him everything, to get rid of this culpability.

    That's when all falls down, for the two leads. Because the chemist decides to blackmail Magimel…

    I won't spoil the feature any further…

    But there is something here that reminds me Dominique Moll's HARRY, UN AMI QUI VOUS VEUT DU BIEN. Demaison in Sergi Lopez character. Any one will have realized that Hitchcock influenced very much this movie, as many many others…

    I won't see it again, not enough dark or desperate. But it is worthwhile as a good time waster. Good suspense from the beginning to the end.

  4. This is another well done French film noir with a rather dramatical touch. But instead of presenting us ugly events or the worst case scenario, the movie plays in a very intelligent way with wrong expectations, fatal illusions and terrible fears. The philosophy of this movie is shown at its very end and is a rather unconventional style for a film noir which makes this flick somehow stand out in comparison to the usual genre flicks.

    What I liked about the movie is that it was always a very realistic and addicting flick without any unbelievable sex or gore scenes. The main actor didn't fell in love with the young student. He didn't kill his old best friend out of his despair. The movie didn't need a dose of extra blood as it worked very well in a psychological way. The movie didn't constantly build up pressure and tension but there were rather reoccurring ups and downs, moments of despair and then moments of relatively tranquillity which was an interesting development.

    The reason why this movie didn't get a higher rating was the fact that I was somehow missing a punch or a twist in the end of the movie. I think it is original and unconventional that there wasn't one in the end but it would have addicted me more to the main actor and whole storyline and so I didn't completely get into the whole movie as the actors didn't do more than a good job but not an as convincing one as for example Attal and Cornillac in the brilliant "Le serpent". This distance to the actors and the story rate this movie eventually a little bit down.

    But if you like a rather unusual film noir, I would suggest you to rent but maybe not buy this flick.

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