Phillip Noyce’s (Rabbit-Proof Fence) evocative adaptation of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American opens with beautiful fireworks etched against the sky. It’s not what it seems. It’s the sounds and sights of an encroaching war. Greene’s classic tale of desire and deception, set during the French war in Indochina in the early fifties, matches Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser in a battle of moral, political and even existential dimensions. Caine plays Thomas Fowler, a rather lazy British news correspondent who has settled into a sensual lifestyle in Saigon with Phuong (Hai Yen Do), his stunning young Vietnamese lover. Enjoying colonial luxuries and priding himself on his non-involvement in a war that is on his doorstep, Fowler rarely files any stories and is on the verge of being called back to London by his newspaper.
This changes when Alden Pyle (Fraser), an idealistic aid worker whom Fowler describes, approvingly, as a “quiet” American, arrives in the city. Ostensibly, Pyle is in Vietnam as a doctor, but it soon becomes clear that both he and the increasingly visible American mission have another agenda. Unprepared for what he will uncover, Fowler sets off to find a story that will extend his stay in the country. Few films deal with this particular moment in history, or with the growing American involvement in the region that was soon to explode into the full-fledged conflict that enveloped Vietnam. Noyce tells a complex love story of competing desires for the same woman, set against a tapestry of shady manoeuverings for political power. The dynamic between Fraser and Caine is fascinating to watch as these two accomplished actors navigate the paradoxes of Pyle and Fowler’s relationship. Aided by the beautiful cinematography of Christopher Doyle (best known for his collaborations with Wong Kar-wai), Noyce achieves an uncannily visceral evocation of a time and space charged with intrigues both personal and international.
“A towering achievement with a soul-baring performance by Michael Caine that deserves the highest praise.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“[A] superbly controlled, passionate adaptation of Graham Greene’s 1955 novel.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
“Does a superb job of evoking the psychological world of Graham Greene in which the truth of any situation tends to be hidden and riddled with ambiguities.” – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
“Not only true to Greene’s novel – it has the effect of making the novel itself seem truer than it has ever been.” – J. Hoberman, VILLAGE VOICE