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.
by Mark Deming synopsis