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The Difference Between Quiet and
Boring Is Very Fine, Indeed

The Quiet American
Wrt. Christopher Hampton (adapted from the novel by Graham Green)
Dir. Phillip Noyce
Str. Michael Cain, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen
Opens February 7th

The Quiet American is one of those movies made so it would get nominated for a bunch of Oscars. It's got the perfect plot, a venerable actor, some nice sets, and it's based on a famous writer's book. It's the perfect recipe for your run-of-the-mill Oscar movie. And that is all there is to The Quiet American.

The story, by Graham Green, is very simple, running along an even keel, relying on the subtly of the writing to evoke emotion for the characters and the situations. Hampton has done an admirable job adapting the novel, as a good deal of their characteristics emerge from the movie with the same simple, quiet passions. But these passions are so subtle and so complex that the audience has to try very hard to see them, and identify with them. If one looks deep enough into the characters, however, one will see how marvelously complex they are; behind the quiet masks, isn't so much dramatic turmoil, as real, believable people.

The problem with The Quiet American is no one really seems to know what kind of movie it's supposed to be. Is it a character drama (if so, why don't we care about any of these people)? Is it a political thriller (if so, why is it so un-thrilling)? Is it a love story (if so, why don't I believe that anyone is actually in love with anyone else)? I think that in novel form this ambiguity works well, but when translated to the screen, it feels like it falls short in all three categories, and the three combined do not a complete movie make.

The Quiet American gets two quietly bored hipsters. The acting is good, not as brilliant as they are claming, but definitely good. Some of the story is mildly interesting and the climactic scene is excellent - it is tense and dramatic and wonderfully shot. That one scene, alone, makes the movie worthwhile.

--B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | February 2003 | Issue 35
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