The Quiet American
The Quiet American is a novel by British author Graham Greene. It was published both in the United Kingdom and in the United States in mid-50’s. Interestingly, there are two different film that was made based on this novel under the same title from Hollywood. Since, I couldn’t find the first version of this film (released in 1958), I had to watch the newer one which was released in 2002.
Plot: This movie captures the time when Vietnam was going through a transition from French colonialism to American involvement. To be more precise, it focuses on America backed South Vietnam and its capital Saigon. The story starts with Fowler, a middle aged English war correspondent and his Vietnamese mistress Phuong. It seemed like things were going pretty well between this two individual up until Pyle, an American covert operative showed up.
It was pretty understandable that, a war torn country left lots of young woman without hope and any expectation for a better tomorrow. However, unlike all other young woman in South Vietnam, Phuong seemed to be coming from a better family who has someone like her elder sister to guide her.
The odd chemistry between Fowler and Phuong felt little awkward to me. First I thought Phuong was with Fowler just to be treated better than average Vietnamese young woman and to have a decent life who can support her all the way at that time. However, it took me little while to understand the underlying causes behind Phuong’s affection for Mr. Fowler. Nevertheless, I am not quite convinced that Phuong really loved Fowler.
As Fowler realizes that Pyle’s growing affection for Phuong makes him feel insecure, he seeks revenge in an desperate attempt to escape the reality. Even though the plot of this movie is Vietnam War but one can easily argue that it’s not an War film, it’s more of a romantic drama than anything else. Phuong who happens to be the most quite character of this film seems to be more of an opportunity seeker than a lover. The movie received mixed re-action from its audience both in the U.K, and in the U.S. As Richard Philips wrote:
…a thoughtful and haunting depiction of the bloody role played by US intelligence agents and their local operatives in the dying years of French colonial rule in Vietnam.
Verdict: War is ugly and there is nothing new about it. This movie starts with a question when it shows a floating dead body on a river. The skyline was getting brighter every now and then as the mortar shell were being fired far away from Saigon; depicting the battle between the Viet Cong and the South Vietnam. However, this movie portrays a triangle love that eventually leaves one out of the equation.
I am not a huge fan of Drama film. To be quiet honest, I watched this film because I had to (for my class) but I definitely didn’t regret watching it. If you like drama film and don’t mind watching some fire fights one in a while; this is a must watch film. It could be a great movie from historical point of view as well, especially if you want to know more about America’s role in South Vietnam by the end of Vietnam War.
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1. Phillips, Richard. “A Haunting Portrait of US-backed Terror in 1950s Vietnam.” World Socialist Web Site. 17 Dec. 2002. Web. 5 Oct. 2014.