Monday, July 3, 2017

The Quiet American (1958 and 2002)

A jaded British journalist (Michael Redgrave in the original, Michael Caine in the update) covers the French colonialists' war with the communists in 1950s Vietnam and finds his much younger local mistress being swept away by an unassuming, idealistic, and also much younger American aid worker (Audie Murphy and Brendan Fraser) who proves to be something totally different than he initially appears. Graham Greene's cynical story was first adapted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz into a great, depoliticized screenplay that ultimately leaves much less of an impact whereas Philip Noyce's remake keeps much of the contentious politics intact, though this version seems to detract from the main love triangle where our sympathies mostly reside. In both films, it is the wary and consummate lead performances from Redgrave and Caine which make the film worth seeing and Fraser is quite good as well, crafting a humanized, three-dimensional character out of a vapid blueprint that is far beyond Murphy's empty portrayal in the earlier picture.
1958: *** out of ****
2002: *** out of ****