You have a country struggling to break free of its French colonial powers and assert its own identity and the shift of power between the British and American influence as a London Times reporter Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine) befriends an American aid worker Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser). Pyle turns out to be a different man from the image he presents as he sets out to woo Fowler’s lover and has ulterior motives for being in Saigon. Told as a flashback following the murder of Pyle we slowly discover the key events that lead his death.
Michael Caine’s performance as Thomas Fowler really elevates the film as he injects the usual amount of class and gravitas into the role that he has become known for. It’s certainly the type of performance that was deserving of his nomination for best actor in a leading role at the 2003 Academy Awards.
Sadly the same can’t be said for Brendan Fraser who has the enviable job of trying to match Caine’s performance, which proves to be an impossibility. There’s never a moment in the film where you’re in doubt of Caine or his character whereas Fraser is less than convincing throughout. One of the key plot strands is his attraction to Fowler’s lover Phuong and this is never believable.
Fraser fails to live the role and coasts through the film merely reading the lines as written which is at odds with Caine’s magnificent central performance. Of course Pyle is a character that has secrets and is never revealing himself fully but it isn’t really an excuse for playing him with such a lack of personality.
Given the disparity between the quality of the performances the film never really gels or achieves what it sets out to. There are some spectacular moments such as a key sequence in the middle and the reveal of Pyle’s demise but given the fact that Caine fully embodies his character and makes him believable and relatable and Fraser doesn’t there’s only ever one character who you’re going to root for.
The film has a strong sense of time and place and whilst I would have liked the aspects that commented on America’s foreign policy to be more prominent there’s enough there to make this an interesting film and it’s certainly possible to draw modern day comparisons to this aspect of the film, which is as much down to the quality of Greene’s source novel as it is the film itself.
Film – [Rating:3/5]
You could understand Optimum going to the effort of releasing this on Blu-Ray had the visual transfer been something to celebrate, unfortunately that’s far from the case. I can safely say that The Quiet American is by some distance the worst visual transfer I’ve seen on Blu-Ray. There’s barely a scene in the film that doesn’t suffer from a considerable amount of grain and blurring. You can forget about things like clarity and being able to distinguish anything obscured by shadows.
The closest experience I can liken watching this Blu-Ray to is staring at a magic eye picture for an hour and a half; check shirts constantly flicker as does the wallpaper. This headache inducing stuff is far from what you expect from a Blu-Ray release. In fairness to the disc there are some external shots that are passable and the film’s key set piece seems to have had some time and attention spent on it but overall this is an incredibly poor transfer.
Which is a great shame as the menu screen boasts crystal clear clarity and the snippets of the film we’re treated to there are of a vastly superior quality to what’s presented in the actual feature.
The sound is passable but nothing particularly special; dialogue at times can be a little unclear which isn’t great in such a dialogue heavy film such as this. The key set piece is incredibly immersive and had a huge impact on me but that aside there’s little to recommend here.
Ultimately this is an incredibly poor release for an average film and as such won’t be one that’s flying off the shelves. For fans of the film that do pick this up I can imagine them being hugely disappointed as this is in all honesty one of the worst Blu-Ray transfers I have seen. Just because a film can be released on the format doesn’t mean that it should and this is one release that would justify there being some kind of minimum standard of quality that needs to be reached before a film is allowed to be released on the format.
The Disc – [Rating:1/5]