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The Quiet American

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Quiet American

Starring: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser
Director: Phillip Noyce
Rated: R
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genres: Drama, Suspense, War

*Also starring: Rade Serbedzija, Tzi Ma, Robert Stanton, Do Thi Hai Yen, Holmes Osborne, Quang Hai, Tzi Ma

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

THE QUIET AMERICAN, based on a Graham Greene novel, appears at first to be a mystery and a thriller but quickly turns into an anti-American mood piece. Its mysteries are transparently obvious, and it's too slowly paced to be a thriller.

Director Phillip Noyce, who last presented us with the effective but one-sided RABBIT-PROOF FENCE, turns his attention this time to Vietnam in 1952, when the French were exiting and the Americans were arriving. The movie is worth recommending because of two marvelous performances by Michael Caine as London Times reporter Thomas Fowler and Brendan Fraser as an American named Alden Pyle. If you don't immediately guess what Pyle does for a living, you might want to want to take your brain into the shop for repair. Caine deservedly received an Academy Award nomination for his part as a reporter who claims that he just reports and never gets involved, which, of course, means that he will get involved up to his eyeballs.

For a movie that tries hard to be pro-Vietnamese, it is surprising that none of the Vietnamese actors stand out. In the story's third leading role, that of Phuong, Thomas and Pyle's joint girlfriend , Noyce gets close to a zero from beautiful actress Do Thi Hai Yen, who surely must be better than her work in THE QUIET AMERICAN.

The movie concerns a "story of major proportions" that Thomas is working on. What is it? Thomas doesn't know, but, if he doesn't come up with one quickly, he won't be able to refuse his newspaper's order to come back home. If he does leave, he will have to return to his wife in England and to abandon Phuong, a girl young enough to be his granddaughter.

Thomas does stumble upon a story, a massacre at a remote village. Looking upon a sea of bodies, he makes the movie's most telling comment. The massacre couldn't have been done by the Communists because they don't do that sort of thing. Excuse me?

Much of the movie feels awkward given the world's current crises in which it isn't clear who is going to be giving weapons of mass destruction to which terrorists and when. The most awkward of these moments comes when Pyle complains that the French don't have "the brains or the guts" to act. Don't be surprised if your audience starts squirming in their seats during that scene.

THE QUIET AMERICAN runs 1:58. It is rated R for "violence and some language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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