Monday, February 10, 2003

The Quiet American (IMDB) (Netflix)
The world might really appreciate a quiet American just about now, but not necessarily Alden Pyle's (Brendan Fraser) variety, a member of the U.S. legation to Vietnam in 1952. He befriends gone-native journalist Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine), who has a Saigon mistress while the missus stays back in London, but it quickly gets awkward when Pyle declares his smitten-ness with Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). Pyle has other intentions as well, which ultimately challenge Fowler's role as an impartial journalist.

Based on the Graham Greene novel and filmed in Vietnam, this is a layered, textured story that taps the themes of loyalty and betrayal, objectivity and involvement, self-determination and external manipulation. Caine believes he's done his best work here, and it's difficult to disagree, and Fraser finally establishes his acting bona fides by blending the multiple facets of his complex character into an archetype of American dangerous idealism. The Year of Living Dangerously may have pushed the same buttons with more impact, but The Quiet American's restrained quality serves it and the audience well.