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The Quiet American

Audie Murphy , Michael Redgrave , Joseph L. Mankiewicz    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Audie Murphy Film Jan. 24 2011
By Moodywoody TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
The Quiet American is a film based on a novel by Graham Greene, written basically as an anti-war movie that was also critical of America's increasing involvement in Vietnam. The plot uses a love triangle between a beautiful young Vietnamese woman and the two protagonists, a young idealistic American named Pyle who sees a Third Force politically for Vietnam, and a cynical British journalist in his 50's. When the book was first published, it was seen by many as being ant-American, however the film version dilutes the geo-political intrigue of the Pyle character, and focusing more on the love triangle aspect of the film.

Nevertheless, this is a very good movie despite its changes from the book. This is because the performances of Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave are superb. In fact, I would argue that The Quiet America is definitely Murphy's most interesting performance, and possibly the best film he ever did. I know it is my favourite film starring Audie Murphy. His character is charismatic, complex, and contradictory, worldly and yet very naïve. It is a shame he did not do more of these kinds of roles, rather than the usual western, as entertaining as they were.

However, in many ways one could say that this is Michael Redgrave's film. His performance in this film makes one realize just how good an actor he was, right up there with the greatest British actors of his time. It is disappointing that they used an Italian actress, Giorgia Moll, rather than a Vietnamese woman for the third member of the love triangle, but her performance is adequate enough.

Joseph Mankiewicz wrote the screenplay and directed this fine film. Considered one of the great writer/directors in Hollywood history, this film only solidifies his reputation.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The better version? March 30 2010
By WSH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The debate over whether this or the more recent Michael Caine version of "The Quiet American" is better tends to revolve around the ending. The 1958 version is certainly less faithful to the ambiguous Greene novel - nevertheless, the ending the director, Mankiewicz, wrote is perfectly consonant with the rest of the film and has a dramatic truth of its own. The politics of the subject matter should not be allowed to obscure this. Rather than being dismissed as dated and politically incorrect, what recommends the earlier version are its strong cinematic elements - filmed on location in Saigon - and a strong cast, particularly Michael Redgrave's performance. Some viewers may question the acting abilities of Audie Murphy, but his is a rather clever piece of casting. The script is rather too wordy, though rarely dull, and the improbability of a reporter who never reports and carries a camera but never uses it also weakens the story - but the look and mood of this production merit high marks.
65 of 83 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worth seeing only as a time-capsule, not as a film April 24 2005
By James Luckard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This 1958 film of Graham Greene's novel is interesting today mostly as an historical artifact. It is not a particularly outstanding example of the art of cinema, just a dated melodrama in which the location exteriors in Saigon lead to interior dialogue scenes that are stagy and leaden and obviously take place on unconvincing studio sets. It is admittedly fascinating to see some of the exact same Saigon locations that were used in the 2002 film, and Michael Redgrave does bring a weight and soul to the role of Fowler.

Sadly, however, the film brutalizes his character. Where Greene's novel was about a world-weary Brit, confronted with a blindly idealistic American willing to sacrifice innocent lives in the name of his goals, the film inverts everything. Pyle is a virtual saint and Fowler merely the gullible old man who plays a part in Pyle's downfall not out of a desire to protect the innocent, but simply to rid himself of a romantic rival. It is not difficult to see why Graham Greene was incensed by the film and disowned it.

Fascinatingly, director/screenwriter Joe Mankiewicz manages to make this total change largely by the addition of one scene at the end. His film basically follows Greene's novel, up until [SPOILER WARNING!] an atrocious final scene in which we learn that Fowler has been hoodwinked all along by the Communists, and has destroyed a noble American who was genuinely bringing freedom and hope to Indochina. A prescient warning about America's doomed involvement in Vietnam becomes a piece of jingoistic propaganda to support the war.

The 2002 film, in comparison, is amazingly faithful to the novel. I don't always hold that as the measure of a film's success, but with a master storyteller like Greene, why mess with perfection. Do not choose this film if you want accomplished filmmaking, or an accurate interpretation of Graham Greene's intentions, for that pick up Phillip Noyce's 2002 film. Watch this only afterwards, to see how a few small changes can undermine an entire narrative.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminds me of Crime and Punishment - A Dark Journey Into the Soul of A Murderer Feb. 28 2013
By Gerard D. Launay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Does the director strictly follow the book or not? That is an endless question...but it does not address the movie on its own terms. I imagine precious few films actually follow every aspect of a novel, yet they can be quite successful.

As my title suggests, the closest parallel to this movie are the film versions of "Crime and Punishment." In Dostoevsky's book, Raskolnikov deceives his own conscience by murdering a mean-spirited moneylender. It sounds so reasonable on the surface. Alas, the evil inevitably follows him like a shadow. Essential to the book and the films are the cat and mouse interrogations by the Police Inspector Porfiry of Raskolnikov where the officer hints why so many criminals ultimately confess - to calm their own soul.

Now to "The Quiet American." Because other reviews discuss the plot, I include some spoilers...so if this disturbs you, stop HERE. In his sexual rivalry with a young idealist American who falls in love with his beautiful Vietnamese mistress, Thomas Fowler let's himself be manipulated to let others murder the American for political reasons. Fowler himself has just selfish not political reasons to set his rival up.

Possibly the best section of the movie is the ending - the clever, piercing interrogations by Police Inspector Vigot of Thomas Fowler about the crime. Fowler believes his intelligence as well as his non-participation in the actual physical parts of the crime can save him from conviction.

Does Fowler have a way out...I don't mean a way to deflect blame to others... but a way out for his own soul? A way out to explain his conduct to others, including his lover, or himself? A way out to God? This movie answers that question in a devastating way. I can't say enough good things about Michael Redgrave's performance as Thomas Fowler, a world-weary, intellectual reporter unable to comprehend or control his dark, powerful passions. [I can't think of another performance by this British actor that is more perfect than the one he offers in this movie].

As regards comparison to the newer version of the movie, made in 2002, no doubt about it...that later film is extremely well made. Nevertheless, this 1958 picture touched my sentiments in a deeper place. Subjectively, then, I prefer this version.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This Is 1950's American Propaganda, Not A Graham Greene Movie April 27 2013
By Melvyn Bowler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I was enjoying this movie until the final scene with the Inspector, even though there were a few odd touches that baffled me. For example, no mention of opium until an allusion right at the end. No ambiguity in the American's protestations of innocence.

Then came the ending, and as the French Police Inspector made his pitch I realised that the most important part of the novel by Graham Greene had been turned about-face in order to show the American in a good light - ostensibly helping Vietnam.

We know today, and many knew then, that Graham Greene had been prescient in his warning of the consequences of supposedly altruistic American help to Vietnam. This is literature turned into propaganda - the hypocrisy of pretending this is a film of what Graham Greene wrote is appalling.

No matter how sickening the ending was, the final words of the film made it clear that this was not a genuine attempt to make a movie of a book, but was blatantly dictated by American foreign policy.
The final words on the screen were -

"To The People of the Republic of Vietnam - to their chosen President and Administrators - our appreciation for their help and kindness."

What an incredible lie. The people of Vietnam did NOT chose Ngo Dinh Diem, the Americans did. Misinformation and propaganda right to the last.

PS However, I did enjoy the scenes of Saigon.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cold War garbage Dec 2 2011
By H. B. Franklin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This propaganda film was a deliberate rewriting of Greene's great novel. It was designed to build support for more active U.S. involvement of the Ngo Dinh Diem dictatorship. Colonel Edward Lansdale of the C.I.A. had an active engagement in changing the plot from that of the novel, making Fowler into the villain of the story. All this is documented in the Viking Penguin critical edition of the novel, which includes a number of eye-opening documents.
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