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The Quiet American

Year: 2003
Production Co: Mirage Enterprises
Studio: Miramax
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writer: Graham Greene/Christopher Hampton/Robert Schenkkan
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Michael Caine, Rade Serbedzija

I can't really understand the current cinematic intelligentsia's love affair with Phillip Noyce, although I suspect it has to do with Rabbit Proof Fence, which so many people declared their love for (I suspect more from the desire for political correctness than cinematic appraisal).

And his adaptation of Graeme Green's seminal novel of the cynical English journalist witnessing the origins of the Vietnam war unfolding around him suffers the same simplistic feel. There's nothing about it not to like, there's just something that doesn't sit well.

Fowler (Caine) lives with a beautiful young lover and occasionally files stories for the London newspaper he acts as a correspondent for. When a well dressed young American man (Fraser) befriends him and falls in love with his girl, their lives become inextricably entwined, and the more Fowler learns about him, the less he likes his motives.

Because it turns out that the man, Pyle, is an advance reconnaissance agent for the CIA, readying themselves to stir the political pot for their own anti communist ends.

Fowler willingly gives him up to assassins, disturbed by what he's done, and that more or less becomes the central tenet; is it justified to murder a gentle, well spoken and decent man (and friend) on the off chance you're saving millions of lives down the track?

Caine's voiceovers hint at the sensual allure and mystery of Vietnam during the 1950s, but Noyce's direction is pretty much straight as an arrow and doesn't hint at it as other, more poetic directors like Kubrick or Leone would. It was a great story to adapt, but a filmmaker who's never risen above the mainstream heights he reached shooting Hollywood thrillers like Patriot Games might not have been the best choice for it.

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