Alden Pyle was presumed to be an innocent, young American, until the truth surfaced that he was working with General The and the third force. Pyle is a naive idealist, who is too blind to see that he is imposing his third party idea on a group that is only power hungry. He was sent by America to fix problems that they knew nothing about.
A film directed by Phillip Noyce adapted and written by Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan from a novel by Graham Greene The new film from director Phillip Noyce, from the novel by Graham Greene, adapted by screenwriters Christopher Hampton and Robert Schenkkan is a very successful presentation of Greene's original.
The film skillfully emphasizes the timeless elements that transcend the topical and brings to the fore themes that are relevant and resonant in the present. His skill at drawing highly-charged but tightly-controlled performances from his principle actors and supporting their work with carefully-balanced pacing and production is what makes the story work.
Greene's explorations not only here, but in many of his books of the interface between personal psychology and wider political and social consequences, delves into the whole question of how "history" is made, on the level of the individual, through personal ethical, moral and psychological choices - a central question still being played out in our lives every day.
Given that the book on which this film is based was published half-a-century ago, its relevance and resonance is amazing - and due to the fact that Greene's analysis penetrated far below the surface, to the enduring psychological well-springs that propel human behavior.
He is an aging, world-weary realist, who has made a life for himself in Saigon. With a job that allows him great autonomy- up to a point; a wife - from whom he is estranged - back in England; and a beautiful young Vietnamese lover with whom he lives, Fowler has built for himself a pleasant and satisfying though fragile situation.
When handsome, brash, American man-of-action Alden Pyle Brendan Fraser arrives on the scene it becomes obvious just how tentative Fowler's world is. Pyle is immediately taken with Fowler's lover, Phuong Do Thi Hai Yenand she is obviously attracted to his youth and virile self-confidence.
The threat posed by his younger rival distresses Fowler more than he allows himself to show - for his attachment to Phuong and the way of life she represents for him is obviously deeper than even he is aware. This "love-triangle" is played out against a background of international intrigue, as the French are struggling first to maintain control of their colony, and then to withdraw with as much dignity and decorum as possible.
Pyle, who represents himself as a "medical aid worker" is gradually revealed to be a covert operative of the US, working to install a puppet government friendly to his country, rather than allow the popular nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh - who is a Communist - to come to power Eventually, Fowler is called upon to make the decision, fraught with ambiguity, on emotional, ethical and moral levels, which is the crux of the film.
Hampton and Schenkkan have stayed true to the novel, in presenting Fowler's dilemma, and his response, with dead-pan objectivity - leaving the audience to draw any judgements for themselves. Noyce and the scriptwriters convey the growing sense of unease, the necessity of making a decision, with a measured deliberateness that makes the building pressure on Fowler manifest, like the excruciating torture of man being slowly pressed to death.
Fowler, the professional journalist, the objective observer, is forced to become a "man-of-action," to "take sides. The always-complex motivations that inform our choices - the impossibility of real "objectivity" and the all-too-human pettiness and selfishness that are always part of our most high-minded self-deceptions are the universal complications that give the story its enduring interest and make it relevant on many levels and across the time frame.
At the same time, the story is clearly an allegory about the passing away of the colonial way of life of the European empires, and the rise of the idealistic Neo-imperialism of the US.
Fowler represents the painfully-learned wisdom of colonials. His feeble and desperate, though ultimately "successful," attempts to hold on to what he possesses are clearly seen as securing only a very temporary and costly "victory.
The film, unlike the novel, also has the advantage of hindsight, that allows both Fowler's ascendance and Pyle's eclipse to be seen in an historical context that suggests the intractability of all historical reality, as both of their aspirations are eventually swept away by the unpredictable progress of actual events.
Noyce underlines this - in a way that might have been too obvious and assertive for Greene's sensibilities - with an Ozymanidian coda at the end, where in a montage of newspaper headlines - with Fowler's by-line - the unrolling of the U.
That such insights as Greene offers can be applied to current events with equally provocative results testifies to the depth of his understanding. There is an earlier filmed version of this book, made in Mankiewicz directed, from his own adapted screenplay.
The treatment is much more obvious and melodramatic. The heroic young American is played by real-life Korean-War-hero-turned-actor Audie Murphy, and the British journalist is the redoubtable Michael Redgrave.
Greene objected strenuously to this adaptation. The story is told in a much less nuanced way, with the defeat of Pyle's altruistic idealism - as it is pictured here - by the forces of intrigue, seen as a tragic but necessary self-sacrifice in the progress of Democracy and Pyle himself seen as a "hero.
This interpretation of the characters illustrates- without meaning to - Bertrand Russell's observation that "the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, and the intelligent are full of doubt. Noyce brings the complex results of our multi-layered psycho-socio-political development in the last half-century to bear on the story - to tell it in a way Greene essayed in the book, but which was too complicated, unresolved and morally-ambiguous for the mass audience of the s.The Quiet American A film directed by Phillip Noyce unresolved and morally-ambiguous for the mass audience of the s.
In it's own right, this version of The Quiet American is very well made. The script is deliberately-paced - allowing the audience plenty of time to reflect and absorb, and giving the actors plenty of room to breathe.
But at it's heart, "The Quiet American" is a tale of two dissimilar men and their love for a beautiful Vietnamese woman.
One man is an older British newspaperman saddled with a wife back in England.
The other is a young, naive, low level, diplomat from Boston. Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American, ended on a high note as Pyle’s life was sacrificed to save hundreds of Vietnamese innocents and Fowler and Phuong were reunited as a couple.
THE QUIET AMERICAN, based on Graham Greene’s novel, tells the story of a middle-aged British journalist, Fowler, in Saigon, Vietnam in Fowler lives with his young Asian mistress because his Catholic wife refuses to grant a divorce. It would be difficult, if not disingenuous, to review The Quiet American (Phillip Noyce, His weary voice-over, together with the flashback structure and Greene’s enduring interest in morally ambiguous characters, suggests a certain affinity with the formal and thematic elements of the classic film noir canon.
THE QUIET AMERICAN tells the story of a middle-aged British journalist in Saigon, Vietnam, who gets involved in a romantic triangle with an American spy, which leads to political murder.