Starring: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen, Rade Serbedzija
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Phillip Noyce
Written By: Christopher Hampton & Robert Schenkkan
When I was at college I had to read the Graham Greene novel The Quiet American and then write an essay regarding colonialism within the literature. Due to this I despised the book, not because the story or writing weren't good but because I had to do an essay on something that really didn't interest me. Years later I have decided to watch the film version of that novel and I have to say it was much better than I remember. Like I said the book wasn't bad but after watching this film, which I thought was great, I am considering buying the book and re-reading it.
The film is kept quite close to the book; which is good news for all of those who have read it. The story follows Thomas Fowler (Caine) who is an English journalist in Vietnam due to the war between the French colonialist and the communists of Vietnam. Since being there he has met a young Vietnamese woman who he can't marry due to still being married to a Catholic woman refusing a divorce. He really believes that he loves this woman despite the fact he knows most of these women are with wealthier older men to get themselves out of the country. Fowler's life begins to change though when he meets Alden Pyle (Fraser), an American medical worker who has been sent in to aid the Vietnamese. Although they become good friends, Pyle falls in love with Fowler's girl and as this is 1950's Vietnam he believes he should be able to declare his love and let her decide. Fowler then has to do all he can to keep his girl from a man with many more prospects than him. All of this is set in the beginning of the Vietnamese war and highlights a possible way to how the Americans became involved, which also ties in with this love triangle.
Don't be fooled into thinking this is a love story. It may be at heart a love story but surrounding it around the war makes all the difference. There are plenty of political theories and themes' running through it and the love story is only really one half of the entire plot but the driving force behind it all.
Caine and Fraser are brilliant in this film. Their chemistry is spot on and after reading the book these actors are exactly how you would expect them to be, they definitely done their homework. Other members of the cast also portray their roles well but it is the two leads who steal it. Caine seems to breeze through it with ease with it being a simple role for him, so most praise has to go to Fraser who has proved that he isn't just a comic actor and can take serious roles seriously. Both actors play their characters with hidden depth that seeps through as the story goes on, and we can clearly see a change in both their personalities by the end of the film.
The setting is also beautiful. The cities of Vietnam look great despite war torn, and the graininess of the cinematography also adds to this. The war scenes are filmed well and they add to the depth of conflict and desperation which is shown throughout. War may be happening but our leads are more worried that love will keep them alive.
The film kept me gripped till the end, and the final twenty minutes is intense when we finally understand what is happening. The music adds to this tension and the fast pace of the build up. This final act ironed out a few negatives that I had with the film and cleared them from view. One of these was that the beginning felt a little disjointed and expositional but the final act made me forget all about it. This was a film that I am surprised to have liked and I recommend it to those of you out their interested in this kind of plot line. Actually I recommend it to anyone who likes Michael Caine, and that must be everybody. Also don't be put off by the casting of Brendan Fraser, he is actually really good.
4 / 5
Next film to review: Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN