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The Quiet American Reviews

An interesting but fatally flawed look at the situation in Vietnam, actually shot in that country. Loosely based on Graham Greene's novel, the film stars Murphy (in a fairly ironic piece of casting) as a naive American who arrives in Vietnam representing a privately funded aid effort designed to help the South Vietnamese in their battle against the Communists and the French. There he meets cynical British reporter Redgrave, who slowly becomes involved in the conflict and eventually is duped by the Communists and made to participate in the murder of Murphy. The film opens as a French police inspector, Dauphin, investigates the murder of Murphy. The events leading up to the tragedy are detailed in flashback. The flaws in the scenario occur when the screenplay departs from the source material. Greene's book was highly critical of the American political involvement in Vietnam. The film, however, portrays Murphy's character not as an official of the American government (as he is in the novel), but as a private citizen with his own naive plan for solving Vietnam's internal problems, not one officially sanctioned by the US government. This switch removes Greene's point of view, which was critical of American involvement in Vietnam, and thereby removes any power the film might have had. Another problem is the casting of Murphy in the lead role. A genuine American hero in WW II, Murphy was not an actor of great depth. His persona was fine for the numerous westerns and war pictures the studios assigned him, but in a film of this seriousness and complexity he flounders. The audience is left emotionally tied to the Redgrave character (due to his superior performance), though his character is also adversely affected by tampering with the source material. Despite these problems, THE QUIET AMERICAN has some value for its rare Vietnam location photography, and the historically interesting Hollywood interpretation of the troubles in that country before our military involvement.