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Michael Caine - Intense, Brooding, Sympathetic, Questioning
Ralph Michael Stein30 November 2002
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 Viet Nam.

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.

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Caine scores again
Roland E. Zwick10 August 2003
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.'
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Michael Caine Superb in Vietnamese Drama...
Ben Burgraff (cariart)16 August 2003
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!
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Brilliant adaptation
jotix1003 April 2003
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.
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A Powerful Triangle of Love in the Beginning of the American Intervention in Vietnam
Claudio Carvalho21 December 2003
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")
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Surprisingly captivating
Spanner-219 February 2003
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
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Flawed but fascinating and well made none the less
bob the moo29 November 2002
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!
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Very good movie
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.
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Well Made But Too Complex To Be Entirely Cinematic
Theo Robertson18 January 2006
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 ?
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A gut wrenchingly authentic look at the era - might be spoilers
wefweofla17 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This film made me feel quite sick - not because it wasn't excellent, because it was, but because of the war it presaged. The characters, Fowler (played as ever brilliantly by Michael Caine) and Pyle (Brendan Fraser was a revelation here, - a young, less than idealistic intelligence officer, who looked and acted, right down to his mannerisms, like a tough, middle class American of that 1950s era, who was absolutely sure that he was in the right). The girl, beautiful and docile, is a mere foil for the men to vie over - anybody who thinks her character should be developed is in my opinion mistaken, they are not interested in her for her character,and she has no need of one in the context of this movie. The settings and cinematography are perfect. This is a wonderful movie, if only we didn't know what was coming next.There was some lip service paid to the Vietnam War right at the very end, which appears, naturally, neither in the original novel nor in the first movie made in 1958, but added a great deal to this version.
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Quietly astounding movie
Ravenus3 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
THE QUIET American - Philip Noyce

[FULL REVIEW - likely plot spoilers]

'The Quiet American' is one of those rare films that, in a mostly unobtrusive way, actually makes you think about the morality of its characters and what they stand for.

Based on a Graham Greene novel, the story set in 50's Vietnam homes in on the testy relationship between a Saigon-based London Times reporter Fowler (Michael Caine), and the newly-arrived 'Quiet American' Pyle (Brendan Fraser). Fowler's an unlikely protagonist - middle-aged and desperately trying to stay back in Vietnam with his opium pipe and his young mistress Phuong, he does his job with jaded resignation ("I'm just a reporter. I offer no point of view, I take no action, I don't get involved."). In comes Pyle, fresh-faced, friendly and eager to play the kindly Yankee medical corps Samaritan. The two strike up a casual friendship but that soon runs into dark waters when Pyle falls in love with Phuong. He initially backs off in chivalry but returns on learning that Fowler will not actually marry Phuong since he can't get a divorce from his wife in London. Phuong's own wishes in this regard are ambiguous and seem more related to her own security than love for either of them. This tangle of emotions is played out against the backdrop of a strife-ridden Vietnam being similarly drawn between the French and the Vietcong. Fowler in a bid to keep his Saigon post goes into more dangerous territory, trying to dig up the dirt on a third faction in the battle. But he, like the audience, gets more than he bargained for in a devious turn of events that culminates in startling carnage.

The story raises pertinent questions about the motives of America in Vietnam and the events that led to the invasion of Vietnam - It was shelved from its intended 2001 release in the wake of 9/11. But it's also a gripping noir drama that gives you fleshed out characters instead of stereotypes. There are no obvious heroes or villains, and the greatest strength of the film is its sustained sense of ambiguity, right up to the brilliant end, which leaves you wondering about who the bad guys really are.

Kudos to Noyce and Michael Caine for setting a new standard in anti-heroes with their gritty, uncompromising portrayal of Fowler. Brendan Fraser, shorn of his trademark goofy mannerisms, does a surprisingly good understated turn as Pyle. The period atmosphere and Christopher Doyle's stylish cinematography easily capture the turmoil of the characters and the setting. If anything I'd have liked the film to be longer, with greater exploration of the very interesting characters it deals with: Pyle in particular seems to have got a bit of the short shrift in the latter half of the film, and a deeper look at Phuong wouldn't have hurt either. But as it is, it's still an excellent emotional thriller, which in most part respects the intelligence of its audience.
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Caine, Fraser Excel In This 'Sleeper'
ccthemovieman-120 April 2006
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 little notice.

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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fldelk-131 August 2010
I have long told people who wanted to understand the Vietnam War to read Graham Greene's book. I was surprised by the synopsis calling this a book about a love triangle. At the risk of obscuring the power of this movie, I have to say it is a book about the futility of colonialism illustrated by a love triangle.

As we try to do a better job of leaving Iraq than we did of Vietnam (and certainly a better job of leaving than of entering), this movie can remind us of the hell created by good intentions.

On a different level - see this movie for the spine tingling scene of Caine and a sentry spending the night in a lookout.
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Love is War
das41716 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Vietnam in the early 1950's was torn apart by civil war as the French, in a vain attempt to hold onto one of their most important colonial holdings, battled against a Communist independence movement. British reporter Thomas Folwer (Michael Caine) is a dedicated, if not detached, observer of events. However, despite a major war tearing apart the country around him, Thomas spends most of his attention on his young mistress Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). His life is one of simplicity and routine that even war doesn't seem able to change.

However, that does change when a young and idealistic American named Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) arrives in Vietnam with the American aid mission. A man who is passionate about helping what he sees as a troubled country threatened by the evils of Communism, Alden finds himself suddenly obsessed with the young Phuong. Thomas, at first finding Alden at first rather amusing, is soon annoyed and troubled at the idea of having the American stealing away the woman he loves.

There are several other issues that quickly begin to overwhelm Thomas and his otherwise comfortable life. His home office in London is demanding his return while his wife, the woman he is really married to, is refusing to give him a divorce so that he could marry Phuong. To answer the first problem he devises a plan to sneak into the actual war zone itself to discover a story that would allow him to stay in Vietnam longer. To deal with the second problem will take more thinking and consideration.

The Quiet American, at first a slow movie despite the fact that Alden's eventual death is made clear in the beginning, soon becomes one of intrigue and political mystery. Thomas begins to suspect that there is more to Alden and his story of wanting to help the Vietnamese. A recent move by Vietnamese General Thé (Quang Hai) to gain political and military power has Thomas convinced that there is something else going on and his suspicion falls again on Alden.

The only way to answer the question of who Alden really is, and where the moral ambiguity of the story and its characters begins, comes in the form of a terrorist attack which kills dozens of innocent civilians. Alden, instead of a simple and caring American out to help Vietnam, is in fact a CIA operative who is funding Thé who himself is responsible for the bombing. As with any crusader out to save the world, Alden believes that breaking a few of the proverbial eggs is acceptable if it will bring the greater good. Thomas, who claimed that he never got involved with the stories around him, now finds himself facing the question of not if but how he will become involved in order to stop the madness around him.

A political and historical story of two men in the middle of a very confusing moral situation, The Quiet American is very much a reflection of today's current political and international crisis. However, it is also the story of about two friends who find themselves not only divided by political belief but also because of the love for a woman. Love, as both men discover, is also war. And as with any war, there are always casualties.

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The First Casualty of War is Always the Truth!
liberalgems17 October 2007
This is a tremendously powerful film, one that should be required as a part of any high school or college American history class curriculum. Conservatives will hate it (too bad!) and the rest of us will be moved, and deeply troubled, by it's many implications. You might even shed a tear or two, like I did.

Graham Greene, who's book this movie is adapted from is one of my heroes. He was a household name in the 60's and early 70's. And, he deserves to be one again! Haven't we learned a thing from Viet Nam? Or, are we Americans all suffering from amnesia? Pentagon Papers anyone? Remember the notorious "Domino Theory?" If we don't save Vietnam from Communism the whole of Asia will go down the drain, and then those blasted Commies will someday be knocking at our door!

Oh, the grand "Big Lie" strikes again in the 2000's! Why did so many of us believe our Federal government would "never" mislead the public on the reasons for the Iraq War? But here we go again, repeating history. We are such fools, it's truly amazing!
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Thought-inspiring adaptation
Weredegu30 January 2007
I'm writing this review having read the book by Graham Greene, but I'll try to comment on the adaptation without including spoilers for people who haven't read it and are about to see the film. Still, if you like to form your own opinion, I'd rather suggest that you stop reading and just watch the movie. It's really the kind of intelligent story that deserves your own private take on it, formed without previously consulting others on what it could be. 'The Quiet American' might leave you with some hard questions to ponder, like such films as 'Death and the Maiden' or 'The Pianist'.

So, I found the adaptation very interesting and thoughtful. I wouldn't say the script is really completely true to the original text. It has changed the original's essence somewhat, and the interesting thing is that while it corrected something I found somewhat flawed in the novel, it did so only in getting something, that was a great thing in the book, somewhat flawed. On the one hand, Pyle's character is more realistic here, or at least I felt so, watching the movie. In the book he is just too naive at certain points. Here he's still an idealist, but shows a lot less naiveté than in the book. On the other hand, I think the way the characters interact as a result provides some cover-up of Fowler's character development (which was very much in the focus of Greene's novel). It's not that the changes Fowler goes through are denied. It's just that they receive less emphasis, less attention, and can thus be perceived less easily. For some, this might go down as presenting events from more of an anti-American point of view than the book. Anyway, if someone who hasn't yet read or seen 'The Quiet American' is still with me at this point: just go and judge for yourself when you already know what I could possibly be talking about.
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they told us so
Lee Eisenberg8 January 2007
I read that there was a version of "The Quiet American" made in the 1950s. Since the Vietnam War had not yet happened - at least not its really famous stages - that version could have been seen as a warning. Since this one came out long after the Vietnam War (in fact, shortly before the invasion of Iraq), it's both a warning and saying "I told you so".

The obvious point is that this movie is not a war movie, but it's still a good look at what led up to the Vietnam War, as the young American agent (Brendan Fraser) comes in pretending to help the people but is actually coming to stir up trouble that the US can use as an excuse to invade. This may be the best role that he has ever done, to the extent that the movie would work equally well without the presence of a great actor like Michael Caine (no offense to Mr. Caine).

So, it's certainly one that I recommend, as a warning about the dangers of militarism, even in its most minimal form. Also starring Rade Serbedzija and Tzi Ma.
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Compelling, Powerful, and Beautiful
Wulfstan1023 March 2005
This is simply an outstanding film. The film does a great job at bringing the important themes, characters, and events of the book to film in an entertaining and gripping manner. It successfully portrays its powerful messages and examination of human character.

The cinematography, directing, scenery, etc., are all first rate. The visuals are beautiful and, combined with the overall highly skillful and artistic use of camera work, details, voices, sounds, etc., perfectly convey the atmosphere of Vietnam and the issues facing the characters. It successfully draws the viewer in to the point of almost smelling and feeling what's happening.

The screenplay keeps the momentum going, slowing down just enough, and beautifully building the atmosphere and tension.

The acting is magnificent. Caine, as usual, puts in a great performance and this is probably one of the best of his career. It's rather hard to swallow that he could get an academy award for Cider House Rules but not for this movie! In fact, Caine has never been fully recognized for any of his greatest roles, but then I have little real faith in the whole academy award thing anyway. Fraser is, as usual in dramas, also wonderful. This highlights once more the irony that despite the fact that he is usual known for comedies some of his greatest work and roles are in top-notch, artistic, and pretty heavy-hitting dramas. He is perfect as the apparently helpful and naive, but sinister, scheming American aid worker and his appearance, demeanor, and skills wonderfully convey both aspects of this character.

In the end, this is utterly successful, powerful, compelling drama that is beautiful, grips the viewer, and presents complex, rich, and convincing characters who evoke strong emotion.
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A Caine tour-de-force
George Parker1 August 2003
"The Quiet American" tells of an eternal triangle which evolves amid the tropical backdrop of Vietnam during the end of the French War in Indochina in 1952. The triangle includes a British reporter (Caine), and American aid worker (Fraser), and a Vietnamese beauty (Do Thi Hai Yen). The film opens after the stabbing death of Fraser's character and spends the rest of the run explaining the circ's which led up to the killing. Caine carries the film on his back with a solid performance while Fraser is unconvincing and the local beauty is just so much window dressing. A moderately interesting drama, "The Quiet American" squeaks by as a three star watch thanks to Caine, good atmospherics, location shooting, and some intrigues. Coulda, shoulda been better but an okay watch for most, especially those who got their Vietnam history lessons from the nightly news broadcasts of the 60's. (B)
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Personal Cosmos
tedg2 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

It is part of the human condition to imagine ways in which the universe reflects that small vocabulary of happenings that forms our lives. Greene created something of an industry in writing stories that exploit this notion, stories where some moral dilemma is mirrored in huge political or natural tides. It is a simple, unsophisticated idea, but one that sometimes created spellbinding stories as he moved between levels.

The effect was one of seamless integration, adding apparent new depth at each level. Never was the depth real, however. Never were there any actual new insights on the larger or personal dynamics. But we went along because of the sheer audacity of the idea and the skill by which it was exploited. Now along comes another film of one of his books, and another failure at this seamless integration. In the book, the forces that unfold are as fluid as the imagination can make them, but with film we are limited by what we can see.

So we see war and intrigue. And we see a simple competition of two aliens for the attention of a woman, all with mutual exploitation in mind. Yes, there are a few metaphors (Vietnam as mistress to an aging Europe), but the cosmos of the personal is wholly unrelated to that of the political, except that each happens to be there. This completely drains the project of life and all we are left with is a workmanlike picture with professional but uninspired and unintegrated souls.

One element of that workmanship was notable: the rhythm of Caine's delivery. Like any low class English actor of his generation, he is obsessed with subtle nuances in inflection and how that denotes social standing. Here he employs an amazingly effective trick: his timing is rushed a tiny amount, even when giving the voice-over narration. This is a well-established phenomenon in conversational pecking orders: the dominant speaker always has this aggressive timing. Fraser takes this and delays his timing to an equally subtle extent (but less consistently), making him the `quieter' of the two.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements.
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Caine deserved the Oscar nomination...
MisterWhiplash15 March 2003
...and yet I didn't get the sense that he will win it come next week- his performance is compelling and believable enough to carry this film to even longer lengths than it ends at, but it's not exactly his very best (not like say Cider House Rules or Hannah and Her Sisters). He indeed gets inside the Graham Greene character of Thomas Fowler, reporter for the London Times in 1952 Saigon, who is also in love with a beautiful Vietnamese girl. Enter in Brendan Fraser's character of Pyle, some sort of medical personnel, who quite congenially befriends Fowler, only to also fall for his girl. This in the scope of the French against the communist Vietnamese, making the atmosphere war torn.

While I have not read Greene's novel, it would seem that just from hearing Fowler's voice-over narration, brief and smart, the book is one of those that has the upper hand over the finished product of film. There is much merit to Noyce's adaptation, mainly due to Caine revealing depths on the nature of Fowler. And the love-triangle fused with the backdrop makes sense. It's Fraser who I though brings the film down in parts, for though he does what he can, he is severely overshadowed by the lead Brit. Not a great movie, but Caine fans will be delighted and Greene admirers should take a look as well. B+
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Stylish interpretation of Graham Greene's novel with legendary Caine
johnny-0810 July 2008
"The Quiet American" is one of those movies that shouldn't be missed because of many aspects. First, fans of Graham Greene won't be disappointed cause Phillip Noyce managed to create very stylish interpretation of Greene's novel. Second, the acting of Michael Caine in his old days is absolutely amazing. Third and most important, this is a very good movie; not a brilliant one but very good.

Story is set in Saigon, Vietnam in 1952., where movie starts with a murder of a man who Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine), older British reporter, knew very well. Story then goes back and we are introduced with Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), beautiful and young Thomas mistress and young and idealistic American aid worker Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser). Alden falls in love with Phuong after their first meeting and tries to win her for himself. While Thomas and Alden 'fight' for Phoung, there is real war raging on streets of Saigon and in the area.

This story is about love, which both Thomas and Alden feel about Phoung. Phuong is here an object, marionette that switch sides however her older sister wants to. What she feels? Certainly gratitude to Thomas because he put her away from ticket-dancer job and gave her home and financial independence. But is that all that Phuong feels? Is she in love with Thomas? Probably not cause she went to live with Alden, knowing that sooner or later she'll fall in love with him, because he's younger. On the war plan, Thomas discovers Alden's interference, that finally leads to betrayal and like in chess, removing an opponent.

Beside very good directing of Noyce, all the prize goes to most of this crew for giving life to their characters. Michael Caine leads this cast, with no opponents really. Only Rade Serbedzija, in scenes in the beginning and at the end, as Inspector Vigot manages to act with Caine. Both of them aren't only screen, but excellent stage actors. Lot of people aren't aware of Serbedzija's career but he's just a perfect actor. Our second main actor, Brendan Fraser is what I didn't liked in every aspect. Fraser has this face and appearance to be Alden Pyle, book character. What Fraser lacks is serious roles. Here, in scene when all secrets are revealed (Alden and Thomas conversation in Thomas home, before Thomas opened the book), Fraser is blown off by Caine. Fraser made that scene funny to watch, because he cannot act that kind of serious roles when you got to show emotions, shout, stand for you beliefs (which is the point of Alden Pyle character). Beautiful Do Thi Hai Yen plays Phuong, and I must add that she does it very well.

To conclude, watch this slow paced beauty because of capable direction coming from Phillip Noyce and brilliant acting coming from legendary Michael Caine.
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RResende23 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is good work. I came to it because i've recently re seen Minghella's Talented Mr.Ripley. This one had Mighella as an executive producer and, in fact, it has much of the strength in mood that he is often able to give his films. That mood is based on specific cultural environments. That environment is always en formed by strong musical notes (here is another, quite good soundtrack work).

Here we have something particularly interesting: the initial shot. This is made of a still landscape shot over the river in Saigan. We get to see more than half the screen with river water, boats on it, houses, and bombs/explosions in a last plan. Than, suddenly, the camera moves down, and we find out a dead body inside a boat right below us. All this is completed with sounds from the explosions and the off voice narration by Caine, quite meaningful in its words to the whole development. The scene has (as most of the first scenes in films) the power to take us into the specific world of the film. One has to appreciate how remarkably economical this one is done.

So now we have the mood, the environment, we have a war, a oriental society, and foreign folks involved. Now the cinematic theme (in straight relation to the story told): all this is made around "seeing". Every faction in this conflict (the historic war conflict and the dramatic conflict between our three protagonists) has its own particular way to See things and always makes the effort to bend the world to that vision. So we have the clear as water war situation. Communists, French, general The and the "third way" (americans). They See things their own way and more: they try to make people see the other factions the way they themselves see it. Check it:

-the bombs one faction places in order to make people believe other faction did it;

-Fraser's character who makes himself look like medical assistant (who incidentally heals an eye disease) while in fact moves his way in secret to create the things he wants people to see (and interpret in a specific way);

-Diolacton, the product which is passed as being something to use in several products (among those it is supposed to strengthen eye glass wires!) but in fact is a compound used to produce bombs;

Than we have our love triangle. Fraser (as a participant) and Caine (as a observer, a man who "Sees") link this story to the global environment. Phuong's vision is in fact her sister's vision: marrying the sister with an occidental man who can be married. Both men place their personal interests into trying to get the girl.

All this construction is intelligent, the mood is well placed (and the first scene has lots to do with it), and the music is really powerful in driving emotions, almost replacing what in other pictures would be made through physical actions. The weak link here is Fraser. He is not the guy for the role which, here, was really important, as a pivot, as disestablishing element. I care about some of his works as a comedian, but he clearly doesn't know very well what to do here, and sometimes he even becomes funny when he's supposed to be intense (in a dramatic way). Caine is many times in other films just vapid and grabbed to his British posture as en former of his roles, but here he really understands the job, and delivers. He is the "quiet" actor, no Fraser.

My evaluation: 4/5
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Better than 1958 version; Greene closer to the truth than most commentators
amhealy27 August 2006
This is a much more faithful rendering of Greene's book than the 1958 version, which he disowned because it ignored his implied criticism of American involvement in frustrating the Geneva Accords, which had brought the French war to an end. In fact, Greene's book could be regarded as a thinly disguised historical account, and very valuable for that reason. Had it been honestly filmed in the first place it might have deterred misplaced American support for armed intervention in the 1960s. Many Americans still don't realize that the CIA advice to Eisenhower was that, had the elections mandated at Geneva been held, Ho Chi Minh might well have won 80% of the national vote. Eisenhower admitted that in vol. 1 of his memoirs, published in 1963 (and that date should resonate). The US set out to frustrate the holding of those elections (a strange way to promote democracy), and that is the background to Greene's book and this movie. The only false note (to the cognoscenti) is the casting of Caine, excellent though his performance is. The London Times and similar papers of that era would never have employed someone with a Cockney accent: in that era only true-blue Oxbridge types became foreign correspondents.
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fr-arons8 September 2003
Excellent tale - brutal history - excellent film - schocking story.

And at least an excellent cast & crew. Nice to see Michael Caine so brilliant again. And discover the mysterious and beautiful Far East Asia through Do Thi Hai Yen. The (his-)story, the film, deserves that you see this peace of fine art.
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