Wednesday 11 April 2018

The Tenth Man - DVD review

The Tenth Man was originally written by Graham Greene as a film script. Abandoned for many years, it became a TV screenplay, directed by Jack Gold (whose work included Praying Mantis, a terrific thriller which I'd love to see again). I missed the TV broadcast thirty years ago, but caught up with it on DVD recently, and felt that it put many films to shame, in terms of casting, production values, and emotional impact.

Anthony Hopkins plays Chaval, a rich and selfish lawyer in occupied France, who one day in 1941 is picked up by the Nazis and thrown into jail. They used to pick hostages at random off the street, and execute a handful of them every now and then in an attempt to terrorise people into submission. A pivotal moment occurs when it's announced that one in ten of the men in jail are to be shot. Lots are drawn, and Chaval is unlucky. But he persuades a fellow prisoner to be executed in his place, in return for the gift of his home and possessions, which the prisoner intends to leave to his mother and sister.

When the war ends, Chaval is freed, but has no money. He makes his way back to his old home, and inveigles himself into the household, using a false identity. He finds that the sister (Kristin Scott Thomas) has been waiting for Chaval's return, because she wants to kill him for being, in effect, responsible for her brother's death. Slowly, a bond forms between him and the sister. All goes well until one day a stranger arrives (played by Derek Jacobi), claiming to be Chaval...

The story is a strong one, and the game-playing about identities works very well. The quality of the acting from the three charismatic stars, and of Gold's direction, is impressive. I find it astonishing that this script was apparently forgotten for so many years; I'm a Greene fan, and I think The Tenth Man ranks with his best work.

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