The Quiet American (2002)

Genres - Drama, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama, Period Film, Political Thriller  |   Release Date - Nov 22, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - Australia , Canada , Germany , France , United Kingdom , United States , Vietnam   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Todd Kristel

The Quiet American could be considered both a murder mystery and a political thriller. But its main emphasis isn't on clever plot twists or nail-biting suspense, although it does offer danger and intrigue. Instead, this deliberately paced and intelligently scripted film places its main emphasis on how the personal and the political intersect in the lives of the main characters. Michael Caine gives a nuanced, affecting performance in the lead role as world-weary British journalist Thomas Fowler. Caine is very effective at conveying how Fowler is torn between his cynicism and his nobler values as he struggles with difficult decisions and motives that aren't always pure. Brendan Fraser does a generally good job with his role as the American Alden Pyle; his measured performance could be more layered, but he does manage to suggest that there is more to this character than immediately meets the eye. Unfortunately, the film loses some of its emotional impact because the friendship between Fowler and Pyle doesn't seem quite as intense as the story demands. This problem is exacerbated by Do Thi Hai Yen's inability to do much with her underwritten role as Phuong, the woman in the middle of the love triangle; often she seems less like a full-fledged character than a depersonalized object of affection and symbol of Vietnam. Indeed, Pham Thi Mai Hoa makes a stronger impression than Do Thi Hai Yen in a smaller role as Phuong's sister. Nonetheless, the sumptuous cinematography and Caine's impressive performance are riveting enough to carry the film through its occasional rough spots.