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The Quiet American

The Quiet American

It is worth seeing The Quiet American just to appreciate the high-caliber work of Michael Caine as his portrait of London Times writer Thomas Fowler rivals his other Oscar-winning roles, including the fatherly, troubled abortion clinic physician in The Cider House Rules.

Philip Noyce who hails from Australia and is known in the U.S. for thrillers like Patriot Games and The Bone Collector, details the geopolitics when the U.S. was beginning to get involved in Vietnam.  In the involving, but politically exaggerated adaptation of Graham Greene's 1955 fascinating novel, not much French is spoken in Saigon, and is subtle, moral complexity seems to be missing.

It is 1952 Saigon, where Vietnamese and Americans seem to inhabit, and Thomas performs his duties.  He is unfaithful to his wife with the pretty teen Vietnamese Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen) who quenches his physical and opium needs.  Caine clearly creates a man truly intoxicated by Phuong and his affection for her.

An idealistic American, Brendan Fraser's Alden Pyle, comes on the scene as part of a medical program.  Fraser, nearly as good here as he was in Gods & Monsters opposite Ian McKellan, is a solid rival for Thomas with his mistress.

Noyce is able to charge scenes, like one that depicts a bombing, set in the former Saigon with not much feel for historical accuracy.  The penetrating script from Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan doesn't quite known why Thomas gets involved in the dreary, volatile political climate of Saigon, one that is reminiscent of Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously, which starred a youthful Aussie named Mel Gibson opposite a comely Sigourney Weaver.

Still, there is something moving and immediate about the love triangle and how the native, object of two men's love plays into it all.  If The Quiet American feels too murky in juxtaposing colonialism with Viet Minh's communists amid a disruptive, amicable Western influence, Caine's skeptical journalist always instills a moody conviction over what is a visually and solemnly diluted debate of the Indochina conflict.

The Quiet American

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