"The Quiet American"
Directed by Phillip Noyce ("Clear and Present Danger").
Written by Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan.
Starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 2/17/03
What would your week be without a little
Saigon? “The Quiet American”, set in 1952 Saigon as the French and
Vietnamese are tussling throughout Vietnam and Indo-China, filled up
my weekly think-about-Saigon requirement.
You know it is slow at the movies when one
of the films of note stars Brendan Fraser--star of such average fare
as “The Mummy” films and “Dudley Do-Right”--as an American medical
officer working in Saigon while hitting on the Vietnamese table
dancer girlfriend of a writer for the London Times (Michael Caine).
Based on the book of the same name, the film opens with the medical
officer’s body floating in a lake near a popular Saigon nightspot.
We cut back to the beginning on the relationship between the two men
as they spar over politics, the table dancer, and their slow-burn
friendship as the political turmoil turns deadly for all involved.
Caine is not bad, Fraser is not bad, the
drama is not bad (since most of it is removed with the opening
scene), Do Thi Hai Yen is not bad as Phuong the table dancer, the
direction by Phillip Noyce (“Clear and Present Danger”,
“Rabbit-Proof Fence”) is not bad, the way Saigon is filmed is not
too bad...the whole damned thing, even the hum-drum title, is not
too bad. The film makes itself predictable by showing us the ending
first; nothing about the three main characters is very interesting
or, for that matter, very boring. The running time of the film is
about average (about 110 minutes), the score is serviceable, and the
story is very easy to follow.
This might be more perfect than any Matinee
film I have ever seen at capturing the Matinee rating. It really is
the kind of film where you leave the theater and you are already on
your next day’s task list. We watched it as part of our Sunday
night film club gathering, and we didn’t even talk about the film
when we went to dinner afterwards. That is a rarity, since we
usually spend at least a little time going around the table to see
what people thought of the film.
“The Quiet American” wasn’t great, but it
didn’t suck. You could do worse, but wouldn’t you rather do
better? (Note: this review was written last Sunday, before the
Oscar nominations were announced; I am absolutely shocked that
Michael Caine was nominated for an Oscar for this role. Shocked!)
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard