A 1988 made-for-TV movie, based on the novel The Tenth Man by Graham Greene. Stars Anthony Hopkins, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Derek Jacobi. With a cast like that (though, as far as I know, Thomas was not well-known then (which means I'd never heard of her)), I'm surprised it was made for TV. Because of that, it is also not well known, which I find lamentable.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

The story is set up when a very well-to-do French lawyer, Jean-Louis Chavel (Hopkins), is outside his office in occupied Paris during World War II and is taken prisoner by the German army. Wanting to execute some random civilians whenever the Resistance wreaked havoc, they showed stereotypical Nazi efficiency by taking hostages beforehand, so as to be prepared when the time came.

Chavel is kept on ice in a large cell containing thirty hostages. Eventually the day comes when they are required to fulfill their purpose. An officer appears, informs them that there was violence during the night, and that three of them will be executed in the morning. He leaves it to the group to choose. A terrible situation. The oldest man there suggests that the oldest three should volunteer, but that method is loudly rejected by one of the youngest. Shortly, it is agreed that they should draw lots. (Again, the oldest man volunteers -- he provides a letter, which he had been seen reading earlier and which he had probably read hundreds of times, to be torn into pieces and marked.) Chavel is one of the three unfortunates. He immediately begins protesting that he hadn't agreed to the lottery in the first place; then he asks for someone to take his position in exchange for a great deal of money. This is derided by the group, but a young man named Michel starts asking for details. He is sickly and thinks he will not survive the incarceration, even if he is never chosen for execution in the future, and takes Chavel's place in exchange for all of Chavel's worldly possessions. Chavel writes a deed detailing the transfer, and then a will for the young man leaving all of his newfound wealth to his mother and sister. The next day he is executed along with the other two.

Eventually the war ends, and we see that Chavel has survived through whatever later purges there may have been, and he is released, penniless (francless) into the streets of Paris. After wandering for an unspecified number of days or weeks, he is finally seen to have returned to his home town, and at the gates of his (formerly his) estate.

You knew that was coming, didn't you?

Michel's sister Therese (Kristin Scott Thomas -- gorgeous!) answers the door when he knocks and takes him for a vagrant looking for food. Over a country snack, he tells her that he was in prison with Michel, but gives her a false name, Jean Peret. They talk about Chavel and the deal he made, and her all-consuming hatred for him is made plain. Finding that Peret has no plans for the future, she offers him a job as a handyman (the place had become run down, more than three years would account for, I think) and he accepts.

There's certainly enough work to be done around here, she says to him, but mainly what I'll be paying you for is to identify Chavel when he comes. I'm certain that he will return here.

So, at least several weeks pass, the place is looking good again, and Therese and Peret are -- surprise -- falling in love. And then the doorbell rings, and a man announces himself as Jean-Louis Chavel. Therese and Peret are bemused, for obviously different reasons. She asks him, "Is this Chavel?", and Peret finally stammers out an affirmation, which no doubt surprises The Imposter. Therese spits in The Imposter's face, as she had said that she would if he ever came, but then insists that he can stay the night, refusing to turn him out in the downpour. The next morning, she confesses to Peret that she is as cowardly as the man she so despised, because she had been unable to kill Chavel during the night, as she had also sworn she would do.

Later, in Chavel's old bedroom, which had remained unused, the two men confront each other. The Imposter admits to being Bretón, the son of a man that had been in the prison. He had heard the story of Chavel and Michel, and, figuring that Chavel would never dare return, had hatched a plan to take his place and gain the land and fortune, thanks to a government decree that made it possible for wartime property transfers to be rescinded.

But Peret soon discovers that Bretón is wanted for murder. Bretón tries to get Peret to leave, saying he would kill Therese and her mother if he revealed his true identity. Peret is going to do so, but first writes Therese a letter explaining who he really is, and affirming her ownership of the estate. Leaving, he overhears Bretón and Therese talking; he is saying that she has seen his worst, and thus can trust him now (a bit of a non sequitur), and to forget about Peret who was a liar and generally no good.

Now, Chavel shows himself and proclaims his true identity to Therese. She doesn't believe him, but Chavel goads Bretón into shedding his imposture, shooting him and then fleeing. Chavel lies dying in Therese's arms.

Chavel: Is the hate all gone, Therese?
Therese: Yes, all gone.
Chavel: Good, that's good.


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