The Quiet American

February 7th, 2003


The Quiet American

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Still of Michael Caine in The Quiet AmericanStill of Michael Caine in The Quiet AmericanThe Quiet American2002 - Miramax Films - All Rights ReservedStill of Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser in The Quiet American2002 - Miramax Films - All Rights Reserved

An older British reporter vies against a young American for the affections of a Vietnamese beauty.

Release Year: 2002

Rating: 7.2/10 (16,863 voted)

Critic's Score: 84/100

Director: Phillip Noyce

Stars: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen

Saigon, 1952, a beautiful, exotic, and mysterious city caught in the grips of the Vietnamese war of liberation from the French colonial powers. New arrival Alden Pyle, an idealistic American aid worker, befriends London Times correspondent Thomas Fowler. When Fowler introduces Pyle to his beautiful young Vietnamese mistress Phuong the three become swept up in a tempestuous love triangle that leads to a series of startling revelations and finally - murder. Nothing, and no one, is as it seems, in this adaptation of Graham Greene's classic and prophetic story of love, betrayal, murder and the origin of the American war in Vietnam.

Writers: Graham Greene, Christopher Hampton

Michael Caine - Thomas Fowler
Brendan Fraser - Alden Pyle
Do Thi Hai Yen - Phuong
Rade Serbedzija - Inspector Vigot (as Rade Sherbedgia)
Tzi Ma - Hinh
Robert Stanton - Joe Tunney
Holmes Osborne - Bill Granger
Quang Hai - General Thé
Ferdinand Hoang - Mr. Muoi
Pham Thi Mai Hoa - Phuong's Sister
Mathias Mlekuz - French Captain
Kevin Tran - Watch Tower Soldier
Lap Phan - Watch Tower Soldier
Tim Bennett - American Photographer
Jeff Truman - Dancing American

Taglines: In war, the most powerful weapon is seduction.

Release Date: 7 February 2003

Filming Locations: Da Nang, Vietnam

Box Office Details

Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $101,663 (USA) (24 November 2002) (6 Screens)

Gross: $12,987,647 (USA) (3 August 2003)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The film ends with newspaper stories written by Thomas Fowler about Vietnam from 1954 to 1966. However the book on which the film was based was published in 1955, so these are mostly events which happened after the book came out.

Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): Fowler constantly mispronounces Phuong's name (as "phong" instead of "phuong"), even though he had been partnered to her for two years. Phuong corrected Pyle when he made the same mistake.

[first lines]
Thomas Fowler: [voiceover] I can't say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman's voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you're looking for, you will find here...

User Review

Michael Caine - Intense, Brooding, Sympathetic, Questioning

Rating: 8/10

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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