The Quiet American

"Excellent"

The Quiet American Review


Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg did it again this year. So did Steven Soderbergh, who seems to do it all the time. I'm talking about releasing two movies in the same year, a practice that can result in walloping one-two punches like 1993's Jurassic Park and Schindler's List, or swings-and-misses like Full Frontal and Solaris.

Joining their ranks is director Phillip Noyce, another director who has released two films in the same year, though he's the only one, in my opinion, who might find himself competing against his own film come awards season.

As much as I enjoyed the message driving Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence, the better of the director's two admittedly powerful films is The Quiet American, a passionate portrayal of love in a dangerous time that opens the door to so much more. The film stars Michael Caine (at his most relaxed) and Brendan Fraser (at his most, well, whatever it is he does) as two corners of a love triangle that's threatening to collapse.

We begin in Saigon, in the late-1950s. The French continue to wage war against the Vietnamese Communists, but - in typical French fashion - are on the verge of pulling out. Seasoned London Times reporter Thomas Fowler (Caine) has loosely covered the conflict for years, but is in danger of being recalled to England for lack of original story ideas.

Fowler has no intention of leaving Saigon. He's currently enjoying the creature comforts of his new exotic life, has fallen deeply in love with a Vietnamese dancer named Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), and has recently befriended Alden Pyle (Fraser), a Boston native working for the Economic Aid Commission.

Seeking to stave off a transfer back to the life (and wife) he detests, Fowler forges ahead on a bluffed story involving military activity in North Vietnam. A violent confrontation at Phat Diem has blown the lid off a much larger story that could point fingers directly at the United States and its increased involvement in the war in Vietnam.

The most genuine pleasure to be found in American is Caine, who masterfully inhabits the skin of his character. Fowler is a decent man enjoying life's splendors who genuinely believes he's earned that right. Caine is so convincing, it's hard to think otherwise. Though he recently collected his second Supporting Actor Oscar after coasting through The Cider House Rules, he seriously earns what would be his sixth nod here.

Together with Fraser - who is polite, courteous, and inoffensive to a fault - the two actors convincingly portray men nourished by their love of the same woman. Caine sells it better, largely because he's more talented but also because he's given tremendous lines like, "To lose her, for me, would be the beginning of death." My knees are going weak, and I'm straight.

Noyce cleverly employs point-of-view camera shots during the film's lengthy passages of dialogue, which helps us feel part of the doomed relationships. Despite the gorgeous but charcoaled Saigon locales, we temporarily forget this love triangle is playing out in war-torn Vietnam, and the screenplay - working from a Graham Greene novel - keeps us in the dark on several key political plot points until they become absolutely necessary to advance the story.

All along, Fowler and Pyle's pissing match over Phuong rightfully overshadows the engaging political/military subplot until the war works its way into the heart of Saigon with explosive fashion. That's when the mystery begins to unravel at a fevered pace, and American draws us in completely. Quiet is a strong drama. You'll want to sing its praises loudly.

The film's DVD adds a commentary track, making-of featurette, and an interesting timeline of events in Vietnam dating back to the 1940s. Even if you don't thrill to the movie, its utility for children's research papers is invaluable.

All in favor of another little gold statue?



The Quiet American

Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Friday 7th February 2003

Box Office USA: $12.8M

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Production compaines: Miramax Films, Intermedia Films, Mirage Enterprises

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 132 Rotten: 19

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Thomas Fowler, as Alden Pyle, as Phuong, as Hinh Ma, as Joe Tunney, as Inspector Vigot

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.