Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature commentary with Philip Noyce,
Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser; Anatomy of a scene; Original
featurette; Vietnam study guide; Original book reviews.
AT A time when all eyes are focused on Americas involvement
in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is perhaps timely that Phillip Noyce
should release his remake of The Quiet American, a love triangle
set against the backdrop of US involvement in Vietnam and based
upon the book by Graham Greene.
Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser reprise roles made famous by
Michael Redgrave and Audie Murphy for this classy potboiler, which
refrains from taking an overly showy approach to its subject matter
in favour of making the viewer think.
Set in Saigon during the fall of 1952, The Quiet American finds
Caines disillusioned London Times correspondent, Thomas
Fowler, leading a forgotten existence with his beautiful Vietnamese
mistress, Phuong (Hai Yen), until he meets Frasers idealistic
young American, Alden Pyle.
For while Pyle initially appears to be a harmless charmer, albeit
hopelessly besotted with Phuong, his involvement with warlord
General The, who has broken allegiance with the French to fight
both them and the Communists, eventually forces Fowler to take
sides, leading to betrayal, deception and murder.
The murder in question is used as the starting point for Noyces
movie and the subsequent tale unfolds in flashback, taking in
Fowlers metamorphosis from cynical observer to pro-active
correspondent, forced to resort to desperate measures in a bid
to keep hold of his beloved Phuong.
But while the love triangle forms the central thrust of the story,
as it did in Joseph L Mankiewiczs acclaimed 1958 original,
Noyce refuses to overlook the events surrounding them, casting
a critical eye over the CIAs growing involvement in Vietnam,
without ever becoming too preachy or accusatory.
Even during the movies pivotal moment - the triggering
of a bomb in downtown Saigon, which may or may not have been orchestrated
by the Americans - Noyce refuses to resort to cheap tactics, delivering
a sequence of devastating brutality which pushes all of the right
emotional buttons, without making you feel manipulated.
The moral and political complexities which abound in Greenes
intricate novel are also present and correct, and are presented
in an intelligent way, usually in the form of the verbal sparring
which takes place between Caine and Fraser.
It is little wonder, therefore, that both actors rise to the
material, with Caine reverting back to the type of Oscar-winning
form displayed in The
Cider House Rules, and Fraser presenting a credible anti-hero.
Both men possess secrets, both men are willing to lie to get what
they want, and both succeed in toying with the viewers perceptions
of them, as their flaws become cruelly exposed.
Christopher Doyles superb cinematography also serves to
heighten the stifling humidity of a pre-war Vietnam, while several
of the set pieces offer timely respites from the talking.
This is hugely impressive stuff which should not only enhance
the reputations of all involved, but could also serve as a cautionary
tale in respect to the world as we know it today.