known for action films such as Patriot Games and The Saint,
director Phillip Noyce has turned from Hollywood blockbusters and
begun making independently-minded films about deeply human subjects.
Noyce is in fact returning to his earlier roots as a filmmaker in
Australia, and the critically acclaimed Rabbit Proof Fence
and The Quiet American (the later Oscar nomiated), are the
Quiet American takes on tricky subject matter as the film tackles
the ambitions of the United States in Vietnam after the French decided
to stop fighting and instead let the Americans give it a try. Caine
plays a reporter named Fowler who sees the unfolding American involvement
in a particularly personal way, as his mistress (played by Do Thi
Hai Yen) is seduced by the young American "relief worker" named
Pyle (who later is revealed in a more sinister light), played by
Brendan Fraser. In the end, Fowler's commitment to Viet Nam the
country, and to his mistress, is real -- Caine's character comes
to realize that love and lasting involvement are the key to his
happiness and fulfilment in a world increasingly devoid of such
qualities. To move from political ambivalence and into a moral universe
defined by choice is, according to Fowler's loyal assistant and
Pyle's assassin, "what makes us human."
performance has won him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and
he will likely win. No one can exude an inner world in turmoil quite
like Michael Caine, whose eyes betray an array of emotions by the
most simple of glances. I heard him say that his secret was "not
to blink" during a dramatic moment, but this seems too simple a
technique for the complexity of the result. Caine's face is a veritible
palette of understated subtlety, and he remains an actor very much
in command of his craft.
as the ostensible American Savior exudes at first a kind of Clark
Kent innocense that grows uneasily into a more sinister reality
as the story unfolds. Do Thi Hai Yen, playing the young mistress,
is certainly beautiful, although a little too flat in her presentation.
The screenplay (by Robert Schenkkan and Christopher Hampton), deftly
translates Graham Greene's novel into a well-structured story that
has a compelling dramatic arc and sense of growing tension. The
film seems almost a throwback in terms of pacing and style, and
happily so, as it reminds us of the power of a narrative that unfolds
like an onion, succumbing neither to predictability nor contrived
twists thrown in for their own sake. The recipe is tried and true
and classic -- and it works. The story has a single secret, and
that is enough.
can only hope Phillip Noyce continues on his current path. He is
certainly treating us to films that give us something to ponder
and talk about, rather than forget about immediately after viewing.
In this career move he has in fact demonstrated the main theme of
The Quiet American, that choice and commitment are in fact
as important as money and power -- that career satisfaction for
Noyce no longer exits in simply making the same popcorn movie over
and over again.
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Copyright Web del Sol, 2003