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The Quiet American (2002)

Cast: Michael Caine, Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, more...
Director: Phillip Noyce, Phillip Noyce
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Miramax
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Politics and Social Issues, Costume Drama/Period Piece, Political Thriller, Vietnam War, Australia & New Zealand
Running Time: 101 min.
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Graham Greene's allegorical novel about America's role in the Vietnam conflict, and how it was perceived by the rest of the world, is brought to the screen for the second time in this adaptation directed by Phillip Noyce. Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine) is a British journalist who in 1952 is covering the early stages of the war in Indo-China for the London Times, not a demanding assignment since few in England are especially interested in the conflict. When not filing occasional reports, Fowler spends his time with Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), a beautiful woman who shares lovemaking and opium with Fowler and is willing to accept the fact the married journalist will never make her his wife. Fowler becomes friendly with Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), a cheerful and articulate if seemingly na´ve American who is in Saigon as part of a medical mission. As Fowler and Pyle develop a closer friendship, Pyle is introduced to Phuong, and the American soon becomes infatuated with her. When Fowler's editors suggest he return to London, he responds by digging himself deeper in covering the war, and Pyle attempts to take Phuong away; she soon rejects him. Undaunted, Pyle continues with his work, but Fowler discovers that medical help is not what the American is bringing to Vietnam. Pyle is in fact a CIA operative who is helping to organize and finance a "Third Force" who will battle Ho Chi Min's forces as well as the French and their allies. Fowler also learns that Pyle is behind a series of bombings which are believed to have been carried out by Communist extremists, and faces the ugly fact that his American friend is in fact a terrorist killing in the name of Uncle Sam's political interests. While completed in the fall of 2001, The Quiet American went unreleased until late 2002; after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the film's producers felt the film's critical view of America's role in the Vietnam war might be considered especially offensive. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
The Third Man
Classic Graham Greene story also involves the mysterious identity of a friend

The Killing Fields
Maybe the best film yet about journalists in Vietnam

The End of the Affair
All's tough in love and war: Another excellent Greene adaptation

GreenCine Member Reviews

Love, betrayal, and terror in the name of democracy by SBarnett September 25, 2006 - 9:50 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
It's not easy to make a great film from a great novel, but Phillip Noyce makes a worthy effort in "The Quiet American." The material Noyce chooses to work with--Graham Greene's classic novel about a man's struggle to find love and meaning in 1950s Indochina amid the collapse of colonialism and rise of the United States as the global evangelist of capitalist democracy--is rich and evocative, and he handles it faithfully (unlike Joseph Manckiewicz's 1958 propaganda film that stood the premise of the novel on its head). The role of Fowler seems to be written for Michael Caine, with his gravelly voice, ravaged face, stooped yet solid shoulders, and clear-eyed vision of the world based on reality as opposed to one based on faith. Beside him, the other Anglo-American actors seem like extras. Do Thi Hai Yen brings Phuong, Fowler's Annamite lover, seductively to life. There are many fine scenes in this film, the best involving Fowler and the French Inspector Vigot (the popular Croatian actor Rade Sherbedgia), two men who perfectly understand each other and the world they find themselves in. Yet a single false note can spoil things: early on, when Phuong disrobes, we see her from behind, across the room, and when her final piece of clothing falls away we hear a cascade of music from Vietnamese strings--as if her simple act needs spicing up to make it beautiful. Still, the message of the film and novel is as important today as it was in the Eisenhower administration, before Tonkin Gulf was used to make war not only on communism abroad but on freedom here at home. Graham Greene's novel gives a great deal more than does this film.

Creepy sinophile weirdness by dojothemouse January 27, 2005 - 4:16 PM PST
1 out of 7 members found this review helpful
Whether or not this is a good movie is kindof beyond me. I couldn't tell. Parts of it seemed a little boring, and the whole "foreign correspondent" schtick was fun but cliched. The only reason that I could possibly recommend it is if you would like to try to unravel the totally bizarre cultural thesis of the movie, that Europe and the USA were two creepy sinophiles to Vietnam's cute little Asian girl. There are scenes in the movie dedicated to eroticizing Do Thi Hai Yen's straight black hair. Dunno how anyone could watch this as a romance and take it seriously.

Allegorical romance political thriller?! by Neutron November 17, 2003 - 10:55 AM PST
5 out of 6 members found this review helpful
Few movies work well on multiple levels, but the Quiet American manages to be a convincing romance drama, and suspenseful political thriller at the same time. I have to say, I was pretty skeptical knowing that Brendan "Encino Man, George of the Jungle" Fraser played one of the leads. But he was convincing and played a multi dimensioned character. Who knew?

This is a good character study of journalism and impartiality as well as a historical record of a somewhat little known time in pre-American war Vietnam. Considering the times that we live in these days and current events being what they are, it's an interesting character study in human nature, have things really changed that much?

The scene of the bombing is absolutely amazing, impeccably shot and really the centerpiece of the whole movie.

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.97)
173 Votes
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Anti-American!! ... j/k?
Films that were misunderstood in their time.
Seems like we've been down this road before...
Life imitates art and art imitates life - throw in a bit of history repeating itself, add a touch of imperialism, a war on ideology - and viola!

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