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The Quiet American

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All-Reviews.com 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 Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Credit actor Michael Caine, director Phillip Noyce and screenwriters Christopher Hampton & Robert Schenkkan with this compelling adaptation of Graham Greene's 1955 novel about political and romantic intrigue in Vietnam. Think back about 50 years when the French colonial occupation was floundering and the United States was just contemplating military intervention.

Based in Saigon, veteran London Times correspondent Thomas Fowler (Caine) is hungry for a story when he's questioned a murdered American whom the police discovered in the river. It's Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) who claims to be in Indochina on a medical mission. Fowler knew Pyle - and the narrative flashes back to reveal their complicated relationship which included a complex rivalry over a pliant yet opportunistic 19 year-old dancer, Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen).

Utilizing the benefit of hindsight, the film's ideological perspective about the subsequent United States involvement in Vietnam is subtle yet clear. Delivering a powerful performance, Michael Caine embodies the wistfully cynical, vulnerable journalist/narrator. His jaded intensity is matched by the idealistic, self-righteous zeal of Brendan Fraser who excuses Pyle's callow subterfuge with: "In the long run, I'm going to save lives." Behind-the-scenes, cinematographer Christopher Doyle and designer Roger Ford superbly evoke the deceptively exotic yet sad sensuality of Saigon. Film buffs may recall that Joseph L. Mankiewicz adapted Greene's novel for the screen in 1958, starring Michael Redgrave, but Audie Murphy's performance as the young Yank was disappointing. (Murphy was a real-life hero-soldier but no actor.) On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Quiet American" is a wry, ironic 8. It's a bittersweet spy story.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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