The Quiet American
Release Year: 2002
Director: Philip Noyce
Writers: Christopher Hampton (screenplay), Robert Schenkkhan (screenplay), Graham Greene (based on his 1954 novel The Quiet American)
Starring: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen, Rade Serbedzija, Tzi Ma, Robert Stanton, Holmes Osborne, Quang Hai
Rating: Nominated for 1 Oscar: Best Actor (Michael Caine). Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Actor – Drama (Michael Caine).
The older British reporter, Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine), living in Saigon during the First Indochina War crosses path with a young American doctor (Brendan Fraser) who falls in love with Fowler’s mistress.
Whenever West and East meet there is plenty of opportunity for engrossing drama and complicated storylines. Philip Noyce’s The Quiet American is no exception. Based on the novel by Graham Greene, the film is set in the war between Communist fractions fighting for Vietnamese independence and the French colonial rulers trying to cling on to the remnants of their empire in the post WWII turmoil. The film’s emotional core is the menage-à-trois between the elderly Englishman and the young American the woman they both love, a conflict that reflects the change of the time from the influence over the peoples of the region by the declining colonial powers (be it France of Great Britain) to the U.S. with her more cloak and dagger approach to power. The film is well-made, a quiet drama sprinkled with intense scenes and one shocking and highly effective scene. Michael Caine (The Prestige, 2006) is great as Fowler, who sporadically submits an article and otherwise leads a rather hedonistic life together with his mistress. His feelings for her are genuine and he professes a deep wish to marry her but is unable to get a divorce from his wife back in England hose Catholic faith forbids her to divorce. The stereotypical approach would have been to make their courtship of her a question of possession much like the ressources of her country, but it is handled rather more elegantly than that. She, on the other hand, is most interesting in securing a good future for herself although she does seem to care for Fowler. A fascinating film, if a little uneven and a stellar performance from Caine and one that makes you wonder whatever happened to Brendan Fraser.
The film’s first screening was very well received by the audience, however, the following da the 9/11 attack in New York and Washington D.C. took place and the rating dropped after each subsequent screening, possibly due to the film’s message which clashed with the patriotic spirit the swept across the U.S. following the attacks.
Picture Copyright: UIP