Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Reflections on Viewings Past: The House that Couldn't Slow Down

I mean, c'mon! Is that the best title they could come up with? The Tenth Man? Okay, so it's the name of the Graham Greene novel... or so I hear. Lemme check my local library...'s website; ah, the modern age. Yep, it's called that, all right. And for those of you out there who get annoyed when they use the title in the film, oh, it's a humdinger when they use it! Sorry, you're going to have to suffer through it as I did.
I can't remember what channel it was on: one of those special HD channels that only the blessed now get. For a small fee. They called it a world premiere. Okay, so it was a TV movie originally, and the music pretty much confirms that... check it out when Hannibal goes back to his house, and has to move fallen branches from the driveway. Am I right or what? But the point was, how often does a TV movie boast this caliber of cast? Exactly. Anthony Hopkins does his usual exemplary work. Well, what they should tell you in acting class is to go for the Oscar every time, just like De Niro did when starting out with Roger Corman. Who knew? Kristin Scott Thomas, well, she looked quite young but obviously working on Under the Cherry Moon aged her terribly. And needless to say, when Derek Jacobi appears, he gives the film some much-needed oomph. I hope that doesn't give too much away.

Cinematography: by Alan Hume, best known for all the James Bond films he did, and many of the infamous Carry On series. Oh, and A Fish Called Wanda. Why, he must've been pulling his hair out on this one! Where's the comedy? Where's the action?

Okay, I'll divulge a little of the plot, as any good film critic does. Place: Nazi-occupied France. Time: 1941... hmm! Just like Inglourious Basturds, only not as blatantly cinephilic, probably. The Germans do random sweeps of city streets to keep those damn French under control. And in one of their sweeps, Boom! They grab Hopkins and off to their hoose gow they go. There's thirty prisoners, and the Germans are ordered to execute three... or ten percent of their prisoners. I think that's how they phrased it. And so, the men draw lots from someone's shredded-up letter. And wouldn't ya know it? Hopkins gets one of the three death straws! So far, he's two for two. But he's a rich man and he's finally able to put it to some damn use. And he finds a guy with a bad cough to take his place for him: the Germans don't care which three prisoners, they just need any three. And so, using his extensive lawyering skills he draws up a will and testament for himself and for the sick dude taking his place. And since the sick dude won't be able to enjoy Hopkins' wealth, he bequeaths it all to his mother and sister. And so, the big day comes and, just like in Paths of Glory, the three prisoners get shot.
Three years later, Hopkins gets out of prison, with one beard and zero money. And eventually he realizes, there's only one place to go: back home. But there's one problem: the sick dude's mother and sister are there. And Hopkins quickly intuits that the sister has become SUPER ANGRY WOMAN! Her super power? Rage. Rage at that craven coward who traded his wealth for her brother's life, and if that double-dealing bastard ever comes back to his own house... well, it spirals out of control from there. He passes himself off as someone other than himself and ends up staying. Will she find out his true identity? Will they be able to go to the big dance without fear of identification? But really, when you get right down to it, aren't all relationships like theirs? That's a bit of a stretch, I know, but I still gotta ask.
Seriously, though, I will say, and this is my big chance to use all those months spent taking all those Comp. Lit. classes... oh, wait, I didn't take any Comp. Lit. classes. Damn! Anyway, for a bad SAT-esque analogy, what William Styron is to Sophie's Choice, Graham Greene is to The Tenth Man. Why is it Sophie's choice? Wasn't it the Germans' choice to be evil? But then again, what do I know? I'm just a snot-nosed kid with graying hair... bad combination. So young, so wide-eyed, so naive about how things work in the real world. I'm telling you, though, you gotta like it when Jacobi shows up.

And that's about it, my friends. So, what star rating? Well, the way I usually do it, I say that three stars means it was worth at least one viewing. There wasn't much visually striking that would be worth going back for; well, maybe that jail cell at the beginning. Three and a half means there was a couple scenes worth seeing again, and four means it's a classic that I'm going to keep forever and ever amen, which doesn't explain why I've got Indiana Jones 4, but that's another story. For this one? Three stars. Next please!

-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan

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