out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
The Quiet American
Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4
Credit actor Michael Caine, director Phillip Noyce and screenwriters
Christopher Hampton & Robert Schenkkan with this compelling adaptation of Graham
Greene's 1955 novel about political and romantic intrigue in Vietnam. Think back
about 50 years when the French colonial occupation was floundering and the
United States was just contemplating military intervention.
Based in Saigon, veteran London Times correspondent Thomas Fowler (Caine)
is hungry for a story when he's questioned a murdered American whom the police
discovered in the river. It's Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) who claims to be in
Indochina on a medical mission. Fowler knew Pyle - and the narrative flashes
back to reveal their complicated relationship which included a complex rivalry
over a pliant yet opportunistic 19 year-old dancer, Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen).
Utilizing the benefit of hindsight, the film's ideological perspective
about the subsequent United States involvement in Vietnam is subtle yet clear.
Delivering a powerful performance, Michael Caine embodies the wistfully cynical,
vulnerable journalist/narrator. His jaded intensity is matched by the
idealistic, self-righteous zeal of Brendan Fraser who excuses Pyle's callow
subterfuge with: "In the long run, I'm going to save lives." Behind-the-scenes,
cinematographer Christopher Doyle and designer Roger Ford superbly evoke the
deceptively exotic yet sad sensuality of Saigon. Film buffs may recall that
Joseph L. Mankiewicz adapted Greene's novel for the screen in 1958, starring
Michael Redgrave, but Audie Murphy's performance as the young Yank was
disappointing. (Murphy was a real-life hero-soldier but no actor.) On the
Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Quiet American" is a wry, ironic 8. It's a
bittersweet spy story.
Copyright © 2002 Susan Granger
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