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I don't understand why the studio satraps thought it necessary to embargo
this film after 9/11, requiring persuasion on Michael Caine's part to get it
to limited release now so as to qualify for Oscar nominations. The American
role in Viet Nam is the subject of hundreds of books and countless articles
- and not a few films. There is nothing unhealthy about the continuing
debate and contrary to what some opine, I doubt American policy vis-a-vis
Iraq has much lineal connection to the troubled saga of U.S. involvement in
Indo-China, or its partial successor in hapless interest, the Republic of
The Graham Green story has been filmed before (1958) but this is a pungent, attention-grabbing version, filmed in various parts of Viet Nam. The sultry and grasping humidity of the land almost comes off the screen. The story takes place in 1952 as the inept and poorly led French stumble towards their ultimate debacle at Dien Bien Phu (anyone interested in this story should start and finish with Bernard Fall's remarkable account of the French Army's Super-Alamo).
Caine, a Brit named Fowler, assures Brendan Fraser, a putative U.S. humanitarian officer named Pyle, that he is a "reporter," not a "correspondent." The difference to the easy-living Fowler is that the latter has a viewpoint, perhaps even a cause, while the former, as Sergeant Friday would say, only wants the facts.
This film really belongs to Caine and Fraser but one other character, the stunning Do Thi Hai Yep, Fowler's live-in girlfriend, deserves mention. She lights up the screen with both her calculating passion for, first, Fowler and then Pyle. Her character is realistically complex: I knew a number of such women when I was an Army officer and although the phrase isn't used here, she's a perfect example of the desperately ambitious, beautiful mistress whose only long-term goal is to be taken to "The Land of the Big P.X."
A series of experiences transform both Fowler and Pyle. Several of the scenes of violence are real enough but the music is intrusive. You don't hear music when people are dying around you. At least not performed by an orchestra.
This is the third recent film in which Michael Caine distinguishes himself by the depth of his acting (the others being "The Cider House Rules" and "Last Orders"). Caine's Fowler leaves us wondering as to what his motives are as he slowly changes before us. There's no clear answer and room for argument. His Fowler is both disturbing and ingratiating.
The audience in the East Village theater where I saw "The Quiet American" today clearly was made up of folks whose minds were settled as to U.S. involvement in Indo-China, never mind the later escalation in Viet Nam. Their grunts and laughs at certain points reflected their views. But the story told here is a faithful mirror of what in 1952 were complex questions in a scary world made scary by communism, not the liberal democracies. That mistakes of a grievous nature were made may be clear today but the road was ill-illuminated then. This film, and Caine's portrayal in particular, reflects the contemporary confusion and the unravelling of any hopes for a peaceful reunification of the two Viet Nams after the French defeat.
I hope this film gets a very wide distribution after it finishes its two-week Oscar-qualifying run.
Phillip Noyce achieves a remarkable triumph in his version of The Quiet
American by staying true the Graham Greene's text. Christopher Hampton's
adaptation of the book never strays away from the basic premise of the
story. This film in someone else's hands would have probably evolved into a
war epic. Noyce and Hampton stay focused on the two main characters, who,
after all, are the key to the story.
It's hard to think Thomas Fowler was not tailor made for Michael Caine. He was born to play this part. His characterization of this troubled soul is remarkable. Mr. Caine gets the essence of Fowler without any effort, or so it seems. He is a jaded man who understands the Viet Nam before the American involvement. He knows he can't go home again to a loveless marriage, one in which he will not be able to escape after having experienced things he never would have thought possible in starchy old London.
Brendan Fraser is an actor with a lot of experience in the theater, even though his choices in films leave a lot to be desired. As he proved with Gods and Monsters, he can hold his own against a great British actor such as Ian McKellen, or on an equal footing with Michael Caine in this film. His take on Alden Pyle is as vicious, devious and sly as Graham Greene made him out to be. Mr. Fraser gets under the skin of Pyle with such flair in the creation of this enigmatic man.
The rest of the cast is not up to the two principals, but it's the confrontation between Fowler and Pyle what really makes this a tremendous acting feast.
In Saigon, 1951, Thomas Fowler (Michael Fowler) is an English
journalist, married in England with a catholic woman, and in love with
a Vietnamese girl, Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). Thomas meets Alden Pyle
(Brendan Fraser) in a bar. Pyle is a doctor working in an aid mission,
and pretty soon, he falls in love with Phuong. Pyle offers her what
Thomas is not possible to give, i.e., a marriage and escape of Vietnam.
Meanwhile, the political situation in Vietnam is boiling, with the
French trying to get control again of the country, the communists
trying to impose their system to the South, and the American secretly
giving support to a third Vietnamese part.
This romance is perfect: the outstanding performance of Michael Caine in the first plane, and Brendan Fraser (in his best role, since 'Gods and Monsters') and Do Thi Hai Yen are fantastic. The screenplay of Christopher Hampton, based in a novel of Graham Greene, is wonderful. And the direction of Phillip Noyce is magnificent, presenting the story in right doses of romance, drama, action and special effects. An overwhelming movie for all tastes. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "O Americano Quieto" ("The Quiet American")
Michael Caine gives yet another outstanding performance in `The Quiet
American,' Philip Noyce's 2002 adaptation of the Graham Greene Cold War
novel (the first movie version was released in 1958). Set in 1952 Saigon,
the film features Caine as Thomas Fowler, a world-weary British journalist
who's been sent to Vietnam to cover the attempt by colonial French forces to
hold back the communist insurgence from the North. But Fowler has a
problem. Despite the fact that he is a reporter, he freely admits that this
country exerts a sort of magical hold on him and that, in order to maintain
that image, he must will himself to look beyond the ugliness and strife that
are tearing the country apart. In fact, reporting is the last thing on
Fowler's mind. He is even madly in love with a beautiful young Vietnamese
girl who lives with him. When his publishers back in England threaten to
call him back, Fowler realizes that he must become more actively engaged in
the events around him if he hopes to be allowed to stay.
One day he meets Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), an American eye specialist who falls in love with Fowler's girl. Even though they are drawn together by much that they have in common, Fowler and Pyle soon become rivals for the woman, though by the end, their conflict has broadened to include the issues of war vs. peace, truth vs. deception, and personal feelings vs. political expediency.
`The Quiet American' is typical Greene in that it provides an intense personal drama played against the backdrop of geopolitical turmoil in an exotic setting. Both Caine and Fraser bring a quiet intensity to their scenes together. Caine, in particular, is brilliant at conveying the many moods of a man who wants to be left alone to live a simple life with the woman he loves but who knows that circumstances are conspiring to make such a life impossible. He is heartbreaking as he sees that ideal existence suddenly slipping away, with little he can do to stop it from happening. He also begins to see just how difficult it is to remain emotionally detached from the horrors happening around him once the atrocities begin to encroach on his world directly. Fowler also has to decide whether his final action is truly rooted in a humanitarian impulse or the product of wanting to eliminate a pesky rival from the field of competition.
In addition to telling a fairly solid story, `The Quiet American' also provides a glimpse into the history of its region, particularly showing how the Americans ended up usurping the role of the French in that far off, alien country in the late 50's and early 60's. This is reflected in a wonderful coda that chronicles the steps leading up to this slow handoff of power and responsibility.
But for all the film's various virtues, it is Caine's performance that is the real reason to catch `The Quiet American.'
THE QUIET AMERICAN, Phillip Noyce's adaptation of the Graham Greene novel,
is among that small subgenre of films (THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, UNDER
FIRE, SALVADOR) where journalists, writing in war-torn countries, discover
conspiracies that undermine everything they've come to accept as true. These
films are inevitably controversial, as they deal with actual places and
historical events, and they demand an open mind, as they often portray
governments in a less-than-flattering light. While the revelations of the
stories aren't always entirely true, each film of this group are
well-crafted, and certainly thought-provoking.
The film is told as a flashback, as the corpse of murdered American Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) is found, floating in the Mekong, in 1952. During the French police investigation, the story unfolds...
Thomas Fowler (Oscar-nominated Michael Caine) is a veteran British journalist ("I prefer reporter," he jokes), writing in Saigon as the French fought the Communists in Indochina. Jaded and complacent, he only sporadically submits an article, devoting his time to a mildly hedonistic lifestyle, and his beloved mistress, beautiful young Phuong (portrayed by the stunning, if not overly talented Vietnamese actress, Do Thi Hai Yen). When young Pyle arrives, purportedly joining the American mission to treat eye disease among the Vietnamese, the older man is immediately impressed by his quiet, respectful, almost naive innocence. Introducing the American to Phuong, Pyle is immediately attracted to her, and, upon discovering Fowler already has a wife, in England, he begins wooing the girl, much to the chagrin of the reporter.
As his paper is threatening to return Fowler to England, taking him away from Phuong, he announces he is involved in a major story in the north, and leaves to investigate reports of Communist activities. What he finds is a massacre, with responsibility denied by both sides. Joined by Pyle ("I didn't want to propose to Phuong behind your back"), the pair barely make it back alive. Although the 'official' story blames the Communists for the deaths, Fowler doesn't believe it, and begins investigating in earnest.
A new military leader emerges, General Thé, opposed to both the French and the Communists, and Caine suspects his forces as the true perpetrators of the massacre. Visiting the elusive general's headquarters, he finds Pyle running a clinic, and the General apoplectic when he asks who is providing the arms and funds for his army. Again, with Pyle's assistance, he barely escapes with his life...and a growing suspicion that the United States is taking a less than neutral role in the intrigue...
While the film's climax will come as a surprise to no one, and the 'love triangle' lacks much spark (other than from Caine, who is totally believable when he confesses that without Phuong he would "start to die"), the film is engrossing, throughout. Brendan Fraser, as the enigmatic title character, does a very credible job in a complex role, after a somewhat shaky first meeting with Caine. The lack of chemistry between him and Hai Yen could easily be explained away as a natural reticence from her character towards any man saying "I love you", in a society where sexual favors are easily purchased. She seems far more comfortable and believable in her scenes with Caine, despite their major age difference.
Ultimately, the film is a triumph for Michael Caine, who again proves why he is one of the finest actors of his generation. As a man who goes from indifferent complacency to active participant by the film's climax, he is never less than superb.
This is certainly one of the better films of 2002!
I liked this film more than I thought I would. Michael Caine (nominated for an Oscar for this role) plays a British journalist in Vietnam, durring the period before the French pulled out. The film follows his investigation of some atrosities his discovers, but treats that as a "B" story to the story of his relationship with a young vietnamese girl and his friendship with a mysterious American played by Brenden Fraser, who likes the same girl. Fraser is actualy quite good in this film, shedding his trademark goofieness from his more mainstream efforts. And Caine definitely captures your interest with his performance. The film kinda moves along slowly but it strangely held my attention and it does suck you in, especialy as they throw in some unexpected plot twists towards the end. GRADE: A
Very good movie, close to the book. Recommended for everyone, especially for the ones who have read the book. Very very pictorial and beautiful, creates the atmosphere and impressions you'd have if you read the original story. The cast is wonderful; the actors' play is excellent. Besides, actor playing Fowler is from London, actor playing Pyle is American, so they look close to what the author of the book wanted them to be. Pyle, however, could be less bully-looking, in my opinion; I imagined him to be somewhat lighter, but I quickly forgot about it as the movie went on. The movie is built on contrasts: the contrasts between main characters, the contrasts of Vietnam, even the contrast in accents (I counted at least 5 different accents: British,American,french,strong/weak Chinese). Also, the movie is rather brief and is therefore quite dynamic, the time is not wasted in it. That's why it's only 3/2 hours long. This is the kind of movie that will not make you wait until it's finished. I highly recommend this movie for everyone with a taste for good movies.
1952. Siagon. English journalist Thomas Fowler lives a quiet life with his
young mistress, Phuong and no intention to return to London. When the Times
request he return he starts looking for stories to ensure he can stay. At
the same time an idealistic young American arrives as part of a medical aid
programme in the middle of the war between the French and the Communist
forces in the North fighting for independence. The American, Pyle falls for
Phuong and the two men discuss what can be done. However in any conflict it
is impossible to stay neutral for long.
As the film rather bluntly says, the plot here is the same story told twice. That of the Americans trying to protect a beautiful country/girl from an unpleasant future (unmarried or communism) even if it means taking her away from her older European master (France or Fowler). The two plots work well even if they have flaws. The tale of the two lovers is less well handed than the critical political stuff but is still good and slightly moving. The political comment is less sharp now than I imagine it was when Greene made it all those years ago, but it will still have impact as America's foreign policy prepares to take it into another conflict overseas in order to remove/keep out forces it feels are harmful to America.
I assume that this is what Noyce wanted and he does it well. The alignment with the central love is not that well done, and this is shown by the fact that Pyle is given those lines to speak so clearly in case anyone missed it. The love story didn't work as well as it should partly because I needed more information for example Phuong's motives were never fully clear and her character was weakly developed throughout. However it didn't take too much away from the film as a total and I still enjoyed it very much.
One of the main reasons was the direction. I have recently seen Noyce's Rabbit Proof Fence and he worked well there. Again here he directs well with the bigger landscape shots but also does well with more intimate or action shots. He also brings an excellent performance out of Caine. He should really get an Oscar for this but I suspect he won't as he got one a few years ago. Jaws The Revenge seems a very long time ago after seeing this film Caine is perfectly understated and you can see the emotion build rather than just appear. Fraser is also very good even if his character has to be damaged by having him explain things. Hai Yen is not as good. She is pretty and a nice gentle voice but I wanted her to have a better character with more she could have done more.
Overall this film may get bad reviews in the US due to it's clear criticism of past American policy but it doesn't deserve it. The love story element of it may have it's flaws but the film works pretty well overall and the political drama side is strong enough to hold it together. The main problem for me was actually believing that an American could ever exist that is as polite and well spoken as Fraser portrays Pyle to be!
The story starts with the body of American Adrien Pyle , a medical
specialist , being found in a river in Saigon . He has been stabbed to
death and London Times journalist Thomas Fowler recounts to the
authorities how he knew the man
TQE is a very strange film to comment on simply because I get the feeling that it is based on a very complex political novel by Graham Greene and it's interesting to note how many people on this page have commentated on how well or how badly it has been adapted to screen . It's also interesting to note that it was filmed in the spring of 2001 when George Bush's " war on terrorism " had not happened which clouds the issue more . People on the message boards have written many political threads to tie in with this but it's very interesting that Greene's original novel was written several years before Lyndon B Johnson sent combat troops to South East Asia , so Greene is criticisng American foreign policy in general and an intelligent , cogent way , not so much jumping on the fashionable bandwagon with Michael Moore , John Pilger and George Monbiot so I guess for that he deserves some credit
As a film what makes it so successful is with the casting . Michael Caine as we all know is a living legend and the fact that he has appeared in so many awful movies simply for the money while still retaining prestigious star quality speaks volumes for his talent and as you might expect in this type of role he's superb . What is even more amazing than Caine's performance is that of Brendan Fraser's as Adrien Pyle . I've just remembered how good he was in GODS AND MONSTERS and he's equally as good here as a man who's not what he seems to be . One can't help thinking how well he'd be regarded as an actor if he'd decided to skip THE MUMMY films which unfortunately seems to have prematurely killed his career . Certainly I wasn't reminded of Rick O'Connel while watching this
Where the film falters is - Again - where it shows its literary roots . There's no way you can confuse a Graham Greene novel with a Harold Robbins one , but there's maybe too much of a romantic subplot which gets in the way of the real story and you find your self questioning as to what the main story . Is it the political one or the love triangle ?
This is a well-acted beautifully-filmed movie that surprised me in good
it was. It's one of those "sleepers," meaning a good movie that gets
I found it interesting from the get-go with Michael Caine doing a superb job, one of the highlights of his distinguished career. Some have even called it his best performance. The same might be said of Brendan Fraser, too, someone who is more known for his lower-brow characters in far less-intelligent films. Those two and Do Thi Hai Yen complete the threesome who excel in the leads. The fact this film takes place in Vietnam and she is Vietnamese makes her all the more believable.
The colors in this film are very pretty, interiors and exteriors. The only negative I had was the obvious political bias in here: Left Wing, of course,(are there any Right Wing-slanted films?) off the novel from the very Liberal Graham Greene. The movie paints an unflattering picture of the early days of America's involvement in Vietnam with Fraser playing "The Ugly American."
Politics-aside, at least half the film is really a love story, as both male leads go after the same woman (Hai Yen). That has a strange ending, is all I will say. All the way through the movie builds in suspense and intrigue in both the politics and the romance. I've seen it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. It's a well-made movie and one that could be enjoyed many times.
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