The Quiet American: Movie Review
In the early 1950s, Vietnam was in a state of chaos. The French Army fought a futile war against the Communist Vietcong. Thomas Fowler was then a British journalist who had been covering the war for more than a year. Fowler met Alden Pyle, an American idealist. Most of Pyle’s ideas came from the works of York Harding.
Pyle and Fowler met at a popular hotel in Saigon, Vietnam. Pyle danced with Phuong, Fowler’s girlfriend and live-in partner. Pyle and fowler met regularly in the same hotel. At a particular instance, Pyle was carried away in the wave of prostitutes. Fowler rescued him. Fowler then went to the city of Phat Diem to cover the looming battle. Pyle also went to Phat Diem to tell Fowler that he is madly in love with Phuong.
Fowler then received a letter from the editor requesting him to be transferred back to England. Pyle came to Fowler’s house and requested Phuong to choose between the two. She chose Fowler, not knowing that her lover was going to be transferred. As the war intensified, the French were pushed on the defensive. Both fowler and Pyle were taken prisoners, spending days in a tower. During their daring escape, Pyle saved Fowler’s life. Fowler then went to Saigon to tell Phuong that his wife would divorce him. Pyle told Phuong the truth. Meanwhile, the editor allowed Fowler to remain in Vietnam for at least a year. Fowler was forced to investigate Pyle’s activities. Fowler found that Pyle was importing military supplies into Vietnam from American operatives. Fowler decided that Pyle must be killed. After a week, an explosion occurred. Fowler suspected that Pyle was behind the bombing. Then, fowler was involved in a murder plot against Pyle (which succeeded).
Indifference and Savagery. Savagery has little to do with the bloody scenes in the movie. Indeed, the movie is not about savagery, it is about indifference. Both Fowler and Pyle represent the typical European class observer who often dissociates personal troubles from political issues. Fowler is the character which represents calm, condescending, and personal courage. Pyle on the other hand represents the ideal American – calm, indifferent, serious, and intellectual. However, Pyle is also a dangerous individual- a person who plots, murders, and rob for self-interest. Phuong represents the oppressed individual of Third World countries. She is weak and soft-spoken; much of what Vietnam was in the early 1950s.
The film uses low-level narration to focus on important statements. A significant number of dialogues have political content – a feat which angered many American viewers for the apparent demonization of American interests in Indochina.
Initially, the French were on the offensive. The French could muster around 500 000 troops to fight the Communists under Ho Chi Minh. Using conventional warfare, the French occupied every major towns and villages. Initially, the insurgents chose to use conventional warfare to confront the French. Realizing the futility of a frontal attack, the insurgents shifted to guerilla warfare. The insurgents attacked French supply lines and harassed French troops guarding key passages and military installations. After the French Army had been shattered, the insurgents attacked the largest military garrison in North Vietnam. The fall of the garrison ended French rule in Vietnam. The insurgents then established a Communist state in North Vietnam.
The Quiet American (1958). Movie.