The Quiet American – Graham Greene: Directed by Phillip Noyce (2002)

“The mood of wry disillusion that seeps through the screen adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel ‘The Quiet American’ is sounded in the movie’s opening moments by the voice of Michael Caine musing dreamily on the mystique of Saigon in the early 1950’s. It is a place, declares his character, Thomas Fowler, where colors and tastes seem sharper than they do elsewhere and where even the rain has a special intensity. People who go to Saigon in search of something, he suggests in a silky murmur, are likely to find it. That something has everything to do with faraway places and a mirage of sex and adventure in an exotic clime. Fowler is a wistfully cynical British journalist who has fled an arid marriage in England to live in Southeast Asia, where he is reporting on the Vietnamese fight for independence from French colonial rule. His attitude toward the political turmoil swirling around him is one of studied detachment bordering on disinterest. Only when Fowler is in danger of being summoned back to England does he bestir himself to go into the field and pursue a story juicy enough to keep him at his post. But beneath his worldly facade lurks a streak of romantic fatalism. Fowler is hopelessly besotted with Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), a beautiful former taxi dancer who embodies the Asian feminine stereotype of compliance and impenetrable erotic mystery. Although Phuong lives with Fowler and is financially dependent on him, the relationship can last only as long as he keeps his job. Although he would love nothing more than to take her back to England, his wife adamantly refuses to grant him a divorce. Fowler may be the richest character of Mr. Caine’s screen career. Slipping into his skin with an effortless grace, this great English actor gives a performance of astonishing understatement whose tone wavers delicately between irony and sadness. Fowler is the embodiment of a now-faded British archetype: the suave, impeccably well-mannered man of the world who keeps a stiff upper lip and camouflages any inner torment under a pose of amused knowingness. Mr. Caine, with his hooded snake eyes and his trace of a Cockney accent, lends Fowler (played by Michael Redgrave in an earlier screen adaptation of the novel) an added frisson of rakish insouciance that makes the character all the more intriguing. ‘The Quiet American’ is the story of a romantic triangle involving Fowler, Phuong and Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), an American intelligence agent operating under the guise of an economic aid worker. Mr. Fraser, looking puffy and wide-eyed, plays Pyle as an earnest, gawky naïf. It is a brave but uncomfortable performance. …”
NY Times: A Jaded Affair in a Vietnam Already at War
W – The Quiet American (2002 film)
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YouTube: The Quiet American 2002 Trailer
1960s: Days of Rage – The Quiet American – Graham Greene (1955)

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1 Response to The Quiet American – Graham Greene: Directed by Phillip Noyce (2002)

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