The Quiet American

Michael Caine plays Thomas Fowler, an English newspaper reporter in Vietnam in the early 1950s. Brendan Fraser is Alden Pyle, the “quiet American” of the title. He is a medical aid worker who befriends Fowler, and then falls in love with Fowler’s young Vietnamese mistress. It’s unquestionably a beautiful film, with understated yet powerful performances from both Caine and Fraser, but it lays on the allegory too thickly. The three main characters play out a love story that substitutes for the recent history of Vietnam itself. The love triangle breaks apart (as it must), but just as Vietnam’s history didn’t end in the 1970s, the lives of those involved in the love story don’t wrap up neatly, either. The lack of resolution has meaning, but it also left me feeling less than completely satisfied.