Movie Review
The Quiet American
Quiet American poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published December 23, 2002
US Release: November 22, 2002

Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Michael Caine , Brendan Fraser

Running Time: 118 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $12,988,000
38 of 143
Is worth a look even if it doesn?t captivate the viewer as much as it is craved
What I was anticipating from Quiet American I didn?t exactly get in return to the fullest degree, but for what was handed over the film scored reasonably well.

The film tells the story of a London Times journalist, Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine), in Saigon who meets a young quiet American named Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser). Pyle is an American aid volunteer for the Vietnamese war and the two of them immediately click as friends. When Fowler?s girlfriend is introduced to Pyle (by Thomas), Alden is right away swept into a sea of love toward this young Asian woman. At this point, the story seems to be about the love triangle between these three characters, as Alden has affection toward her but she is pretty unsure about how to handle the situation. Fowler wants him off his back at this point and when certain secrets are unraveled for Thomas, he plots a certain something for the future.
One of Quiet American?s substantial defects is that in the opening segment, the audience already is given a wink-wink to what is going to happen much further down the road. Of course, this method could be viewed in a Hitchcock standpoint where the audience isn?t even thinking about this area of the plot as the story advances (forgetting that we saw it), but for me it was circulating in my mind as to when the incident would actually play out. This unreeling of the hidden secret early in the game takes away future suspense and removes quite a bit of tension away from its tone. At this point, it is left up to the acting and at-times beautiful cinematography to enhance the scenes of what is a premise we?ve already mapped out about all the way through.

The acting is pretty good, with Michael Caine giving a convincing and controlling delivery as the man trying to figure out the truths behind Alden Pyle, but it is not ground breaking. I haven?t seen a great deal of Caine?s previous films where he is more likely to give an exceptional performance, but here, while it is very solid and adds to the trip it?s nothing to really die for. Brendan Fraser shows a bit of his actual acting talent outside of The Mummy franchise, and he isn?t too bad. Fraser pretty decently meets the character breakdown of the quiet guy who?s fallen head over heals over this young woman, but is not sure as to what to do about it. There are scenes where he?s really in gear and others that could?ve been executed even slicker. It would probably be a decent comparison to judge Fraser's performance against Gods and Monsters where he co-stars with Ian McKellen, but that is a film I'm yet to see.

To my disappointment, Quiet American ended up being more of a showcase of solid acting and here-and-there dead-on cinematography shots than a gripping story that should?ve demanded thorough attention throughout. When I walked out, I had enjoyed the film but not to a great level. It lacked a greater suspenseful and thrilling tone to its layers, spelling out too much for us way in advance. While Domestic Disturbance was a relevant case, the acting and the script there was dreadful enough to brand it as a fairly poor film. Quiet American picks up the pieces by having a cast of talented actors giving in to nice deliveries even if not all of them are doing their absolute best. The script is not award winning, but it surely is reasonable and carries along some very solid lines. There are scenes that drag a bit and took me out of the story for a minute or two, but in general, The Quiet American is worth a look even if it doesn?t captivate the viewer as much as it is craved.
Lee's Grade: B-
Ranked #38 of 143 between Paid In Full (#37) and Goldmember (#39) for 2002 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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