The Quiet American (Rental) (2002)

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Rental Version Only
Available for Rent

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 96:24
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Phillip Noyce
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Michael Caine
Brendan Fraser
Do Thi Hai Yen
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Rental Music Craig Armstrong


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes,
But the rest has got to be lived."

    Australian director Phillip Noyce's The Quiet American is based on the 1950s political novel of the same name by Graham Greene. The location is Vietnam. But it is the Vietnam which we so rarely see in a Hollywood film. It is 1952 and the Vietnamese are struggling against their early colonialists, the French. It is several years before any American GIs are ever seen, and before the country was divided into north and south. The communists are attempting to get a foothold, but the French are for now keeping them at bay. As we all know, this situation does not last for long.

    Sir Michael Caine is Thomas Fowler, a world-weary journalist for the London Times. To say he is living a relaxed and pleasurable life in Saigon is an understatement. Fowler is extremely comfortable in his existence. In between sipping tea at the best hotel in the city, he indulges in the odd puff of opium and has the affections of a beautiful young Vietnamese mistress named Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). Phoung is infatuated with the urbane westerner many years her senior, and with the promise of a better life and marriage clings to him with zest. But Fowler is married and his wife back in England, in her staunch Catholic way, is unlikely to permit him a divorce. Fowler is also about to have his comfortable life rudely disrupted. Having filed only three stories in the last year for the paper, his editor back in London is growing agitated and a review of foreign operations sees him ordered back to head office. Moreover, a young and quietly polite American aid worker named Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) appears in Saigon and is immediately love-struck with Phuong. He is unable to hide his affections, and effectively begins a battle for the hand of the fair maiden. When he saves the life of the cynical old journalist during a sortie into occupied territory, it appears Fowler may just be losing his grip on his true love. Pyle's motives for being in Vietnam are also beginning to raise suspicions in Fowler. Despite claiming the mantle of an aid worker, Pyle's naive idealism about the need for the third force in the country, one to counter both the French and the communists is just a little obvious for Fowler's journalistic instincts to ignore. When certain atrocities akin to terrorism occur, with neither the French nor the communists seemingly responsible, Fowler begins to suspect this growing 'third force' spoken about by Pyle. But the two men are also striking an unlikely friendship which appears to be stronger than the plots and intrigue surrounding them...or is it?

    With the battle for the affections of the lovely Vietnamese native between the conservative occupier (Fowler) and the idealistic outsider (Pyle) set against a political backdrop which almost mirrors the three-way battle, this is a story with strong metaphorical undertones that are perhaps just a little too obvious (Fraser's character even makes mention of it). But it is told with such deftness of hand that you are instantly aware from the opening credits that there is no black and white here. No good guys versus bad guys. Everyone has flaws, and everyone is willing to stretch their morals to further the cause of what they believe.

    This film was slated for release in mid-to-late 2001. But a certain event on September 11 gave Miramax a nervous twitch and they decided a film about America's involvement in funding terrorism would probably not be appropriate. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and it finally received the release and the acclaim it so richly deserved. It is really quite remarkable that a story which offers so much complexity revolving around both a political and emotional love story such as this can be told in less than 90 minutes. This is a real indication of the no-nonsense approach taken with stripping the story back to the barest minimum. It does not suffer in the slightest for it and is highly recommended viewing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in the original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, this is also 16x9 enhanced.

    A nicely detailed and sharp picture throughout is on offer, with few problems to report and no annoying edge enhancement. Shadow detail is handled well, though a couple of scenes are a little dimly lit and I'd suggest watching in a darkened room to get the best effect. There is no low level noise. Overall, grain is probably the biggest issue, with several of the out-of-focus backgrounds being the most notable culprits. This presence of grain never hampers the visual appeal of the image.

    Colours are remarkably well rendered, capturing the steamy grey/green of the tropical Vietnam countryside and the steamy and dingy underbelly of the city of Saigon in equal proportions. The only problem I could see was towards the latter half of the film when Michael Caine's face appeared to take on a slight reddish tinge. Maybe his character had enjoyed just one scotch too many.

    There are no MPEG artefacts and the only instance of aliasing is a very minor occurrence at 61:15 on some timber shutters. A handful of the most minute film artefacts were all I spotted, except for one annoying black scratch line which runs down the left hand side of the image at 61:08. It lasts for about a second and shows up quite clearly on Brendan Fraser's face.

    There are two sets of subtitles on this disc: English and English for the Hearing Impaired. I sampled the latter extensively and found them mostly accurate with only a couple of sentences abridged.

    This being a bare-bones rental disc is a single layered disc only, so there is no layer change with which to contend.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio soundtrack on this disc. It is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 Kb/s. Overall, this is a solid soundtrack with clear channel separation and mostly excellent dialogue levels. The dialogue during a couple of the scenes suffers from being just a little too low, especially when Fowler and Pyle are whispering in the watchtower. There are no audio sync problems.

    The subtle score is by Craig Armstrong and captures the essence of Vietnam and the inner turmoil of the characters.

    This isn't the sort of film which requires excessive surround channel use, and it isn't really needed anyway. When the surround channels are used, it is in a subtle and understated way, which is often the best way of doing it. Simply filling in the streetscapes or providing just enough ambience to envelop the viewer is the way surrounds should be used. Check out examples at 24:10, 28:30-29:15 during a military attack, and during the end climax around the 80:00 minute mark. The subwoofer is also used sparingly, and much like the surround channels when it is used, it is seamlessly merged into the overall sound mix. A couple of explosions at 63:46 are when it comes into its own.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Not really an extra I'm afraid. Hopefully this will be rectified when the retail version hits the shelves.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version is not due to be released until July 29, 2003.

Summary

    The Quiet American is a remarkable film when one stops to consider just how complex a tale is woven in less than 90 minutes. An indication of a perfectly crafted film if ever there was, unburdened by the many excesses that seem to attach themselves to many Hollywood blockbusters. Michael Caine is excellent (as  always), as the world-weary journalist only partially intent on finding the flaws in others while trying to conceal his own shortcomings of character.

    The video and audio quality are excellent, with only minor imperfections in the video.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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