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Quiet American

The Quiet American

5.0 4
Director: Phillip Noyce

Cast: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Hai Yen


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Graham Greene's allegorical novel about America's role in the Vietnam conflict, and how it was perceived by the rest of the world, is brought to the screen for the second time in this adaptation directed by Phillip Noyce. Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine) is a British journalist who in 1952 is covering the early stages of the war in Indo-China for the London Times, not a


Graham Greene's allegorical novel about America's role in the Vietnam conflict, and how it was perceived by the rest of the world, is brought to the screen for the second time in this adaptation directed by Phillip Noyce. Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine) is a British journalist who in 1952 is covering the early stages of the war in Indo-China for the London Times, not a demanding assignment since few in England are especially interested in the conflict. When not filing occasional reports, Fowler spends his time with Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), a beautiful woman who shares lovemaking and opium with Fowler and is willing to accept the fact the married journalist will never make her his wife. Fowler becomes friendly with Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), a cheerful and articulate if seemingly naïve American who is in Saigon as part of a medical mission. As Fowler and Pyle develop a closer friendship, Pyle is introduced to Phuong, and the American soon becomes infatuated with her. When Fowler's editors suggest he return to London, he responds by digging himself deeper in covering the war, and Pyle attempts to take Phuong away; she soon rejects him. Undaunted, Pyle continues with his work, but Fowler discovers that medical help is not what the American is bringing to Vietnam. Pyle is in fact a CIA operative who is helping to organize and finance a "Third Force" who will battle Ho Chi Min's forces as well as the French and their allies. Fowler also learns that Pyle is behind a series of bombings which are believed to have been carried out by Communist extremists, and faces the ugly fact that his American friend is in fact a terrorist killing in the name of Uncle Sam's political interests. While completed in the fall of 2001, The Quiet American went unreleased until late 2002; after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the film's producers felt the film's critical view of America's role in the Vietnam war might be considered especially offensive.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Kryssa Schemmerling
Best known in the United States for such big-budget thrillers as Patriot Games, Australian director Phillip Noyce shows his more thoughtful side with this superb, beautifully photographed adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American. Set in Vietnam in 1952, the story follows the adventures of British journalist Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine), who is stationed in Saigon, covering the war in Indochina. Hardly a hot topic back home, the ongoing assignment leaves him plenty of time to devote to his gorgeous, much younger Vietnamese mistress, Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). Their sybaritic idyll is shattered when Fowler befriends a genial young American named Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), who is in Vietnam on a medical rescue mission. Pyle quickly becomes a rival for Phuong’s affections, but later Fowler realizes that is not the only threat he poses: The American, it turns out, is not as politically naïve as he seems and may be behind the terrorist bombings that have ripped through Saigon. The always-excellent Caine outdoes himself here, creating with deft and subtle strokes a magnificent portrait of a politically uncommitted man who is forced by circumstances into a position of social consciousness. Fraser is well cast as his foil, a sunny, open-faced Yank whose idealism is revealed to have a sinister side. The weak link in the triangle is Phuong, who is less a character than an Orientalist symbol and, as a result, the most glaringly dated element in the story. Yet the rest of The Quiet American is surprisingly -- and perhaps uncomfortably -- resonant today, casting both a dark eye on the American involvement in Southeast Asia and offering insight into the psychology of a terrorist. One of the best political dramas to emerge from Hollywood in years, The Quiet American earned Caine a much-deserved Oscar nomination for his splendid turn as Greene's reluctant hero.
All Movie Guide - Todd Kristel
The Quiet American could be considered both a murder mystery and a political thriller. But its main emphasis isn't on clever plot twists or nail-biting suspense, although it does offer danger and intrigue. Instead, this deliberately paced and intelligently scripted film places its main emphasis on how the personal and the political intersect in the lives of the main characters. Michael Caine gives a nuanced, affecting performance in the lead role as world-weary British journalist Thomas Fowler. Caine is very effective at conveying how Fowler is torn between his cynicism and his nobler values as he struggles with difficult decisions and motives that aren't always pure. Brendan Fraser does a generally good job with his role as the American Alden Pyle; his measured performance could be more layered, but he does manage to suggest that there is more to this character than immediately meets the eye. Unfortunately, the film loses some of its emotional impact because the friendship between Fowler and Pyle doesn't seem quite as intense as the story demands. This problem is exacerbated by Do Thi Hai Yen's inability to do much with her underwritten role as Phuong, the woman in the middle of the love triangle; often she seems less like a full-fledged character than a depersonalized object of affection and symbol of Vietnam. Indeed, Pham Thi Mai Hoa makes a stronger impression than Do Thi Hai Yen in a smaller role as Phuong's sister. Nonetheless, the sumptuous cinematography and Caine's impressive performance are riveting enough to carry the film through its occasional rough spots.
Entertainment Weekly - Lisa Schwarzbaum
Noyce's movie works because the director -- trusts himself, and his audience, to understand that catastrophe isn't always a matter of loud ideology. Rather, it's the result of age-old human weakness. And sometimes it's quiet.
Time Magazine - Richard Corliss
As thoughtful as it is handsomely acted. Caine's subtle, bold performance should guarantee him an aisle seat on Oscar night.
Los Angeles Times - Kenneth Turan
Star Michael Caine, who gives one of the great, inescapably moving performances in a career filled with them, based his character on personal impressions of the late author. And Greene's lifelong concern with moral ambiguity gives this film a texture and complexity that movies don't usually achieve.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Lions Gate
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Anatomy of a scene; Feature commentary with Director Phillip Noyce, Actors Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser and Tzi Ma, Executive Producer Staffan Ahrenberg and William Horberg, Co-Writer Christopher Hampton, and Interpreter and Advisor to Phillip Noyce, Tran An Hua; Original featurette; DVD-ROM: Enhanced Vietnam Study Guide; Original book reviews "The Quiet American"

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Quiet American
1. A Very Quiet American [7:21]
2. Pleased to Meet You [4:38]
3. Shall We Dance? [6:50]
4. The Curious Sister [5:04]
5. Heading North [4:22]
6. Who are You? [3:24]
7. Everyone Loves a Parade [3:18]
8. Boys Behaving Badly [4:52]
9. Meeting with General Thé [4:35]
10. Out of Gas [8:11]
11. A Letter from Home [5:32]
12. Conspiracy [2:50]
13. The Empty Closet [4:49]
14. An Act of Terror [5:28]
15. Plastics for Peace? [4:14]
16. The Book [5:59]
17. See You Soon [11:47]
18. End Credits [7:19]


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The Quiet American 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For the person who dreams of films enhancing their reading worlds, ''The Quiet American'' does it all. Stellar acting by Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine make Graham Greene's world incarnate. Never has Greeneland, that place where morality becomes the central issue and the burden of the flesh palpable, understandable and forgivable, looked so lush and been presented with a coherence unusual in a film adaptation of a major work. The only thing that compares is the Russian ''War and Peace'' where Sergei Bondarchuk fully realizes Tolstoy. In Greene, revolutions happen under our noses, as the band plays and overdecorated administrations become bombastic. Such is the way of the world, then and now, and only faith will save you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
"They say if you come to Vietnam, you'll understand many thing very quickly. The rest has to be lived." Excellent statement on a beautiful and erudite movie. I never saw Michael Caine at his best in this illustrious film based on Graham Greene's novel of the same novel. If one has ever heard people that have been to Vietnam or knows a veteran of that terrible, fratricidal conflict, you understand the mentality of the complexity of that place and that you do learn much more of life. Also Pyle, based on the mysterious General Maxwell Taylor which Greene met in an opium den, is not as politically naive as originally presented and has an insidious side which turns native Vietnamese into terrorists. Very relevant to our own time or any time. That's why violence and the moral implications in this movie and Graham Greene's book will always be pertinent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I may be only 13 , but I know my movies . This movie was so good that I forgot what was going on in my room . That's how good it was . Micheal Caine was excellent in there and I never knew Brendan Fraser can play in such a serious role . This remains to be one of my favorite movies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago