The Quiet American | Chicago Reader

The Quiet American

Phillip Noyce's first-rate adaptation of Graham Greene's interesting 1955 anti-American novel about Vietnam, scripted by Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan, was held back by Miramax, its U.S. distributor, for over a year because of September 11—apparently on the assumption that Americans who considered the terrorist attacks unprovoked would find any criticism of their country's overseas behavior in the 50s unwarranted and unnecessary. Now further events have shown Greene's novel to be even more prescient about American do-gooders loose in the world. Against France's war in Vietnam in the early 50s Greene juxtaposed a romantic triangle—a hardened and lazy English journalist (Michael Caine), his beautiful Vietnamese mistress (Do Thi Hai Yen), and the eager and idealistic young American aid worker (Brendan Fraser) who sets out to win her over—and the story carries more bite than ever. Caine's Oscar-nominated performance is clearly one of the most nuanced to date from this first-rate actor, and Fraser is funny and effective as a foil to the old pro. Apparently trimmed by Miramax, which always knows what's best for us, this 101-minute picture still packs a punch.

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