The Quiet American (2002)

Directed by Phillip Noyce

In early 1950s Vietnam, a young American becomes entangled in a dangerous love triangle when he falls for the beautiful mistress of a British journalist. As war is waged around them, the trio sinks deeper into a world of drugs, passion, and betrayal where nothing is as it seems.

We're not colonisers!

The most interesting thing about this film is, strangely enough, its release year. What on earth was this doing getting approved the year after 9/11 and before the United States' involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan… and, in particular, their use of various 'Third Way' proxies in the region? In this context, the various newspaper cuttings at the end of the film (which vindicate Greene's underlying warning in his original novella, albeit with the benefit of hindsight) are eerie and arresting. Of course, the internet suggests that it was already filmed by the time 9/11 happened and that a certain Harvey Weinstein tried to bury it ("January [2002] is when you dump all the garbage.")

That aside, Graham Greene's subtle use of the three central characters to partly represent the three countries is collapsed into a rather crude metaphor in this adaptation, with Phuong rendered more like a 'sexy' exotic figure from a Jean-Léon Gérôme painting. Moreover, a little unsubtle of this film to dress all the Americans in awful suits (and even a Boston Red Sox cap at one point!) as well as make them sprout inanities such as "Can't wait to show you Boston's Faneuil Hall!" as if it was the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus or something. One of the strengths of Greene's original novel is that the Americans, for the most part, believe they are doing the right thing, and are crucially not peering ominously around the corner twirling their moustaches like cartoon evil villains. In distinct contrast, this Quiet American plays into the delusion that a nuclear superpower just needs Good Admistrators.