The Tenth Man (1988) Short Review

I regret that it has taken me this long to see The Tenth Man. The emphasis here is on the story and the acting and that’s a definite plus when you have actors like Hopkins, Thomas and Jacobi. This never felt to me like a made for TV film (if that’s what this was). Most of the film is set in a French manor and (briefly) a makeshift cell for French hostages of the NAZIs, but still has impressive production values.

Anthony Hopkins plays a wealthy French lawyer (he’s ‘old money’) named Chavel whose societal status changes dramatically  and suddenly during the German occupation of France during WWII. Chavel is one of the unfortunate citizens that are picked up randomly to serve as hostages for the NAZIs. Whenever a member of the underground French resistance  kills a German soldier, a French citizen is killed in retaliation. Who is executed is determined by chance until, an officer decides that several will be killed and tells the French prisoners to choose amongst themselves.

The prisoners wish to decide fairly, so they put 3 ‘x’s in a hat and let everyone have a shot at their own execution. Chavel, of course, fatefully draws one of the marks. He finds it unfair that he will be killed without due process and ultimately exhibits a large degree of cowardice. he begins offering up a deal with anyone who will take his place. he is wealthy, after all. He manages to strike an unlikely deal with another prisoner. His life is spared, but there are further repercussions of his cowardly deal. After the war, Hopkins returns home under another identity.

Hopkins rarely has a misstep, and he definitely doesn’t have one here, playing a very flawed man (or at least makes a very large error in a moment of weakness/fear and suffers the consequences). There is some humor, despite being such a serious film. The number of times that Thomas’ character and her mother unintentionally remind Chavel that his money and house is now theirs is funny in itself. A drinking game could be made out of it, not that that’s what I recommend.

Kristin Scott Thomas is excellent in this, also, playing the sister of the man Chavel makes a deal with. Her character plays the part of holding up a mirror for Chavel to see his own conscience. The more he gets to know her, the more he regrets his decision. When another man turns up claiming to be Chavel, the real fun begins.

This is a film that is sure to please fans of the actors involved. It relies heavily on them since this isn’t a war film of the epic variety. Its a bit more intimate than that. but it was still fun as a WWII buff to see this from the angle of occupied France. The movie didn’t quite make it into my Top 10 of 1988, but that’s only because there were so MANY great films that year. This is another one.

5 of 5


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