The Quiet American.
Dir. Phillip Noyce, 2003.
I stopped reading Graham Greene many years ago because I thought I really must expand my repertoire. But as I watched this adaptation I immediately wanted to pick him up again. Not only is the story astonishingly, accurately prophetic about the doomed American adventure in Vietnam, but its sense of sad fatigue is drawn from that very clairvoyance.
The jaded narrator, shrunken and world-weary rather than easily cynical, is immediately recognizable and attractive. His motives are of dubious integrity, but he is more innocent than he appears, and less a fool than others view him to be. Michael Caine nails him with a single cock of the head, a single unblinking look from red-rimmed, hooded eyes below a deeply lined brow.
The plot structure itself now seems a bit stagy since the basic allegorical elements have been used in so many novels and films since (Indochine comes to mind) -- the naively ruthless American, the knowing French, the lovely young woman who symbolizes the country itself. Even her name, Phoung, means Phoenix. But when Greene did it this was all fresh, and still holds power.
That apart, still remains an excellent film. I wonder at how easily the story could be transcribed to Iraq, or Central America ... Graham Greene was far more prophetic than perhaps even he realized.