Because of its compelling mix of the political and the personal, along with Michael Caines superb performance, The Quiet American drew me in completely. Several powerful films have been inspired by Graham Greenes fiction, and this movie is yet another.
The Quiet American takes place in Vietnam during 1951-52. The central character is aging British journalist Thomas Fowler (Caine), who is covering the French Indochina War (1946-54) for a London newspaper. Fowler resides in Saigon and likes his life there, particularly because living with him is his beautiful young Vietnamese mistress Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen).
But Fowlers well-being is threatened when he meets Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), a young American who comes to Vietnam under the auspices of some sort of economic aid program. Pyle, a bachelor, is immediately smitten with Phuong and wants to marry her. This creates a major difficulty for Fowler because he is estranged from a wife back in England who wont give him a divorce.
However, Fowlers problems are inextricably bound up with the political situation in Vietnam.
I found it interesting that much of the film was shot on location in Vietnam. In particular, the movies climactic scene, where terrorist bombs are exploded in central Saigon, were filmed at the exact location where the historical event took place. For me, this helped to make the film come alive.
I think that The Quiet American was one of the best movies released in 2002. However, it seems to me that director Phillip Noyce was more interested in making a thriller than a character study. The pacing was at times a little too fast to capture the world-weariness of it all. It seems to me that both the mood and theme of the film were undercut by hurrying too quickly over some scenes.
The DVD comes with some good special features, and I have listed these below.
Selected Special Features on the DVD:
- Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
- English Captions for the Hearing Impaired
- Audio Commentary With Director, Caine, Fraser, and 6 Others
- Anatomy of a Scene (Sundance Channel)
- Original Featurette (5 Minutes 15 Seconds)
- Vietnam Timeline
- Original Reviews of Graham Greenes Novel (3)
- DVD-ROM Features: Vietnam Study Guide
- Miramax Sneak Peeks (5)