Quiet American, The (USA/Germany/Australia; 118min.)


directed by: Phillip Noyce
starring: Michael Caine; Brendan Fraser; Do Thi Hai Yen
The Quiet American
 
Bob says: "I don’t know… in general, I’d say I liked this one. My main problems with it were the following two items:

"Fraser’s character was not very believable. I thought that worked well for him, oddly enough, for most of the film, as the audience was clearly supposed to figure out before Caine’s character that this guy was not to be trusted. However, in the scene in which Caine confronts him, he was just terrible.

"The Vietnamese woman was used strictly as a symbol of her country, and that’s pretty trite.

"However, the cinematography was wonderful. The juxtapositions between day and night, particularly in the first cut to a daytime scene around the beginning of the film, really created a feeling of a place that could be many different things. With that in mind, the voiceover indicating that aspect of the place was awfully superfluous. But I do think the DP did a fine job of changing the nature of the space he was shooting."
 
Hilary says: "I was far more interested in the style of this film over the substance, but
then I generally feel that way about any war movie. And what style – gorgeous atmospheric filmmaking! Michael Caine is quite good, but Brendan Fraser is such a frustrating actor. He needs to stop taking every job offered to him so performances such as GODS AND MONSTERS are not completely overshadowed by every MONKEYBONE that comes down the line. I wanted more from Fraser’s character, Alden Pyle. For the titular figure, his role was surprisingly small. Ultimately, I suppose it was the significance of the characters within the socio-historical construct of the story that mattered more than the characters themselves."
 
Jane says: "I have to say I totally agree with Marilyn on this one. I really liked Caine's performance, but overall the movie had little emotional effect on me. And I do enjoy Fraser's work for the most part, so I would also tend to fault the director."
 

Laura says: "This second adaptation of Graham Greene's novel (screenplay by Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan) is a powerfully simple telling of complex emotions and politics in a 1952 that finds Vietnam reflected in a woman. Philip Noyce's (RABBIT-PROOF FENCE) sure-footed direction, Christopher Doyle's gorgeous widescreen lensing and a career-topping performance from Michael Caine make THE QUIET AMERICAN one of 2002's best films.

"Fowler is surprised to like Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser, GODS AND MONSTERS) when the younger American introduces himself as an aid worker, but begins to become concerned later that evening as he observes Pyle dancing with, and obviously falling for, Phuong. The opportunistic Miss Hei sees Pyle as a better match for her beautiful sister. Alarmed, Fowler takes action by traveling to the dangerous Phat Diem area, where a massacre has taken place, in order to keep his Vietnam correspondent post and is surprised to find Pyle has followed him, ostensibly to do the honorable thing and proclaim his intentions towards Phuong. Fowler then writes to his wife in London asking for a divorce and tells Phuong she will grant him one.

"Fowler gains access to General The (Quang Hai) who has begun a third political movement, only to discover Pyle and his boss Joe Tunney (Robert Stanton, HAPPY ACCIDENTS) on the scene again. Pyle hitches a ride back to Saigon with Fowler and saves his life when they're ambushed by communists, but turns on him when they return and his lie about impending divorce is revealed. Without Phuong, Fowler witnesses a car bombing in Saigon which kills many innocent civilians. Sickened, he also spies his quiet American in the midst of the scene speaking Vietnamese like a native. When his assistant Hinh (Tzi Ma, RUSH HOUR) admits to being a communist, Fowler's conscience forces him to take sides - or does it?

"Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein shied away from releasing this film, which presents Americans as terrorists, post September 11, but there may be no better time to open peoples' eyes to the type of activities the U.S. has engaged in (see also THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER). Schenkkan and Hampton's terrific adaptation clearly defines the story on two levels - that of a love triangle and that of a third world country being pulled in three directions as colonialism (Fowler) is being overcome by native communism which in turn is being threatened by imperialism (Pyle).

"Caine's performance builds power as the film progresses and his character's eyes are opened. He is a tainted hero, whose personal desires can never be separated from his moral standing. Caine narrates the film with a world-weary melancholy, his opening monologue like that of SUNSET BLVD. as told by a second party. When later he reflects 'What surprised me was how happy I was to see him,' Caine makes Fowler's astonishment real. The subtlety in which he plays his betrayal is one of the finest single scenes in any film this year. Brendan Fraser once again proves, as in GODS AND MONSTERS, that he can support a great actor in drama. Fraser draws Pyle as the opposite of Fowler, all earnest self-righteousness, rationalization and seeming naivety. When Pyle's true identity is revealed, Fraser makes the audience feel as betrayed as Fowler, so clear-eyed has he been. Caine and Fraser make you believe that these two men are both friends and enemies in a classic cinema pairing.

"Do Thi Hai Yen is quietly beautiful, but Phuong is mostly a symbol. Still, the actress, who spoke no English before getting the part, makes credible affection for one man and something stronger for another. Pham Thi Mai Hoa represents pure connivance as her sister. Tzi Ma has quiet presence as Hinh, who observes Fowler daily until he can make use of the man.

"Technically, the film is simply elegant. Production designer Roger Ford recreates the period and place on location where Noyce's camera captures the beauty of Vietnam with many scenes playing out in darkness. Editor John Scott has given the film a languorous tempo, while still creating strong suspense in the ambush and bombing scenes. Craig Armstrong's (THE BONE COLLECTOR) score adds to the ambience without calling attention to itself.

"THE QUIET AMERICAN should be required viewing on several levels. It is a great achievement for both its director and star ." 5 cats

Review courtersy of Reeling Reviews

 
Marilyn says: "THE QUIET AMERICAN was just that....quiet....I became quite bored and I really like Michael Caine....Brendan Fraser is my secret cotton candy...(I admit I loved GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE...better than my grandchildren) but here, he was just flat....I think that I will blame the Director who must have taken the title to heart. I agree, Michael about the visuals...but I didn't believe either man was really in love...Brendan arrived, looked and fell...NOT believable at all. The drugs made Michael Caines character plausible but still....The fact that she was young, pretty and exotic was not enough. This movie got far more attention than it deserved thanks to Michael Caine who admits he went everywhere to promote it bc he really wanted to be nominated and he got it but I think more bc of the respect people have for his career. He could have phoned this one in but again, I agree Michael, he didn't ....but almost."
 
Michael says: "I am impressed by the one-two punch of Phillip Noyce's 2002 films. Although I found the dramatic visual storytelling and quiet simplicity of RABBIT-PROOF FENCE better, I was quite drawn in by THE QUIET AMERICAN.

"Michael Caine was impressive as the British journalist 'working' in Viet Nam in the late 50's. It's funny, Caine does so many films, and you can really tell when he's coasting through a role, compared to when he's really engaged. THE QUIET AMERICAN is certainly one of the latter. Brendan Fraser was a little outclassed as... well, the quiet American who is working with medical aid and falls in love with Caine's lover. He does quite well for the first 3/4 of the movie, but toward the end there is a change in his character that seems a little stiff. And although her role was rather representative rather than real, Do Thi Hai Yen does a nice job as Phuong, the lovely Vietnamese woman both men love. (Of course, they were all outclassed by the fabulous Pham Thi Mai Hoa, who play's Phuong's vindictive sister!

"Noyce, as demonstrated so well in RABBIT-PROOF FENCE is a terrific storyteller and his talents serve him well in AMERICAN as well. While some of the strokes are broader, he still manages to convey the complicated political times of pre-war Viet Nam elegantly. The visuals are superb and the tension and power of the atrocities governments commit dead on target. The film was ominously relevant to today's political climate as well." 4 cats