Jamie Kennedy's favorite movie review site
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look100%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 0 user ratings

Latest Reviews

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

Locked Down by Peter Sobczynski

Eye of the Beholder by Jack Sommersby

Brazil by Jack Sommersby

Krasue: Inhuman Kiss by Jay Seaver

Shadow in the Cloud by Peter Sobczynski

Curveball by Jay Seaver

Assassins (2020) by Jay Seaver

Coded Bias by Jay Seaver

Sylvie's Love by Peter Sobczynski

subscribe to this feed

Quiet American, The (1958)
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Enjoyable, but skewed, account of Vietnam in the 1950s."
4 stars

Films are the products of their times, and this is, in part, what makes Joseph L. Makiewicz's version of "The Quiet American" interesting. A 1958 release that takes place in 1952, it was set (and partially shot) in Vietnam before American involvement created a generation-defining quagmire. Back then, Americans coming to French Indochina could be looked at optimistically, as ultimately a positive force.

The quiet American of the title (played by Audie Murphy) is never named in the film, and is found dead in one of the very first scenes. His tale is told to French Inspector Vigot (Claude Dauphin) by English reporter Thomas Fowler (Michael Redgrave), who had competed with the American for the affection of local girl Phuong (Giorgia Moll) and also come to suspect him of assisting terrorists. It's an open question which of the American's activities Fowler finds more objectionable.

Of course, on a certain level, they are one and the same - the vigorous young American arrives in a third world country to fall in love with a girl there, offering to rescue her from poverty and the older European man who will never actually marry her. He also, naturally, has promises of American industry and democratic self-determination, which the European countries who wish to leave Asia as colonies will also never offer. And that's before you even consider the communists! But, of course, there will likely be a few strings attached, and Europe isn't going to let its mistress go lightly.

What each character represents is clear, and the film is willing to let the audience see it without necessarily beating us over the head with it. In fact, it arguably plays the romance up a little too much; if this is to be presented to us as primarily a love story, then the American should have a name, rather than just being treated as a representative of his country. Not only does it sometimes make the metaphor a little too obvious, but it leads to some awkward dialog of people saying "the American" when a proper name would sound more like how real people talk. Graham Greene famously disowned the film for installing a less cynical view of what America and the American were up to (a more recent adaptation of his novel restores it); I can't be sure whether this is the result of the prevailing wisdom of the time or political pressure to view both America and the newly independent Vietnamese nation in a more flattering light.

If it's the latter, and that's what it took to make actually shooting in Vietnam viable, it's not a wholly negative compromise. Though a good portion was shot on a sound stage in Rome, the scenes in Saigon look great, especially one of a terrorist attack and its aftermath, where a camera can follow Fowler as he moves from one scene of destruction to another. There's a sense of place throughout the movie, whether during a Lunar New Year celebration or descriptions of how the communists own the roads.

The performances are also good; I particularly like Michael Redgrave's Fowler, who is charming and gives off an air of intelligence and refinement. He also makes it clear that this can also be code for "complacent and lazy"; he's got a good situation and doesn't wish to mess with it. Claude Dauphin is more genuinely pleasant as Vigot, balancing the need to be a good policeman with realpolitik, and works well with Redgrave in their scenes together. Giorgia Moll (who is, I gather, Italian by birth) works in three languages not her own, and uses her stumbling English and falsetto-sounding voice to give the character a sort of mercenary innocence; behind her childish pursuits like milkshakes and picture books, we do see a well-disguised pragmatism. Audie Murphy's portrayal of the title character is probably about as good as this version of the story will allow, getting across the image of the post-war American do-gooder while still occasionally presenting a hint of cunning; it's a shame this version of the script doesn't make us take him at much more than face value as often as it could.

Because of that, it's not quite as good a movie as the 2002 version with Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, but it is interesting. Once the audience is aware of the self-censorship, though, we can view the story through that filter, concentrating on what the great deal that Mankiewicz's "Quiet American" does well rather than what it is unable (or not allowed) to do.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12024&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/12/07 11:26:22
[printer] printer-friendly format  

Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  DVD: 19-Apr-2005



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Privacy Policy | | HBS Inc. |   
All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast