Throughout history, women have been the downfall of many a man in many ways. From Helen of Troy to the mother of them all, Pandora, women have betrayed, manipulated, blackmailed and even bribed men. In some cases, such as in The Quiet American, women are the complete undoing of men by simply being beautiful and therefore desirable. Men, when forced to fight for a beautiful woman, are liable to do things that are out of character, and the two men in this film are no different.
Thomas Foster (Michael Caine) is a London Times reporter living and working in Vietnam. He has been a bit slack of late and has filed just three stories so far in 1952. He has a wife back in London, but more important to him is his Vietnamese mistress, Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). He likes to smoke the occasional opium pipe, as well as taking a journalistic interest in local politics and the on-going war between the French Army and the communist factions working from northern Vietnam.
His relatively peaceful life is shattered by two events; his employers calling him back to London, and the arrival of Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), the quiet American. Pyle is in Vietnam in his role as a medical man, or so he says...
Foster meets Pyle while seated in his favourite cafe/hotel, and introduces him to Phuong. Pyle takes an immediate shine to her. He soon declares his love for her, safe in the knowledge that, as a married man with a Catholic wife, Foster is unlikely to receive a divorce, and therefore is unable to claim Phuong for his own.
|"Sooner or later, one has to choose a side."|
In an attempt to gain more time in Vietnam, Foster heads up north to investigate the warring French and local communist fighters. He is surprised to find Pyle following him, and even more surprised when Pyle ends up saving his life. He begins to uncover evidence of political interference and with each uncovering, Pyle is somewhere nearby. As the pieces of the political puzzle come together, Fowler sees a chance to reclaim Phuong from Pyle, but it means involving himself in a manner in which he is not comfortable.
This Philip Noyce directed film of the Graham Greene novel is a little slow to develop, but as it does it increasingly draws the viewer in. The acting is excellent as you would expect of actors such as Caine and Fraser, and being mostly filmed on location in Vietnam is a distinct advantage.
This is another fine drama that seems to have had a very short cinema run, and is recommended viewing for those getting a little tired of the countless no-brainers that have been pouring out of movie studios of late. Don’t be fooled by the notion that is a romantic film, for the romantic encounters between Phuong and the two westerners are secondary to the main themes of political and social unrest as well as foreign involvement in south east Asia.
The Quiet American is a joy to watch, and there is almost nothing negative to note about this 16:9 enhanced, 2.35:1 aspect ratio film. The image is as sharp as any film can be on DVD and colours are solid, bold and yet natural. There is no chroma noise or other colour related problems. There is no edge enhancement and shimmer is non-existent. Black levels are very solid, and shadow detail is generally very good, even in the darker scenes.
There are one or two white spots, but you can count them on one hand, while there is no evidence of dirt or other marks.
Being a short film with limited video and audio options and no extras, there is no layer change. There are no issues with compression and a sharp, clean and bright film is the result.
To match the fine video transfer, there is a wonderful Dolby Digital 5.1 audio that will impress. There is a great sound range with deep and solid low-level sounds, and crisp and clear trebles. Most dialogue comes from the centre speaker, with some separation of various sound effects to the left and right front speakers. Rear channels are not used for any specific effects, but are ever present in most of the film, carrying ambient sounds such as street sounds, rain and thunder.
The subwoofer gets a regular workout, especially during the few explosive scenes. There are no problems with synchronisation or volume, but English subtitles are included should they be needed.
The Quiet American is a finely crafted film with just the right mix of drama, action and a little romance. The characters, though fictitious, are possibly inspired by real people. While the story is a work of fiction, it is tough not to wonder just how closely some of the events mirror real events.