The Quiet American (Blu-ray)

July 31, 2017 7 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

Sooner or later, one must take sides

Whenever people decide to tackle major literary works for film, I always feel nervous for how the final product will turn out. Some authors have been lucky enough to see their works turned into masterpieces, and some have seen their work turned into garbage. Most of the time, for some reason or other, the film versions fail to kindle the same feelings that the book aroused. One author who was incredibly fortunate in how his books were adapted was Graham Greene. While still alive he was able to see perfect renderings of The Third Man, Our Man In Havana, and The Quiet American, which Twilight Time just released on Blu-Ray. If you have not read the novel, I highly recommend it. Greene is an excellent writer, and it is my favorite novel that I have read from his extensive career. I loved the book, so with excitement and trepidation I gave the film a try.

The plot of the film begins on the Chinese New Year in Saigon during the French occupation of Vietnam. The French and the Emperor were struggling against communist forces in the north. Underneath a bridge, a body is found during the celebration of the New Year. The body is of a young American (played by Audie Murphy) that had been an acquaintance of British ex-patriate and journalist Thomas Fowler (Michael Redgrave.) After Thomas is interrogated briefly by French Inspector Vigot (Claude Dauphin), the narration of the film is carried out by Thomas, who describes the previous year’s events though an extended flashback. Thomas had been romantically entwined with a young woman named Phuong for two years when he met the idealistic American. Phuong had been a dancer at a meeting place named the Rendezvous when Thomas had met her. When Fowler met the American, he was having drinks at The Continental with Phuong. The American immediately falls in love with Phuong. Whereas Fowler believed in watching out for one’s own interest and cared little about picking sides in the war, the young American believed in honorable deaths and in an idealistic future for Vietnam (which history proved was untenable.) As the two men’s lives become deeply intertwined, the young American proves to be a strong contender for Phuong’s affections. Adding to Fowler’s troubles, his wife is a devout Episcopalian and will not let him divorce her. The American also seems to be involved with the importing of plastics, which makes many believe that he may be an enemy operative.

When I first read The Quiet American, the novel gave me chills. The characters were so fully realized, and their motives made sense – however barbaric they were. When I watched The Quiet American, I got the same chills. Some critics have blasted the film for making what the American did a little less cut and dry, but having read the novel, I did not find these omissions offensive. The film is helped by the excellent script by the director Joseph Mankiewicz that nails the dialogue that made the book a classic. The casting is absolutely fantastic. I don’t think I will ever be able to open up the novel and picture anybody other than Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave. The cinematography by Robert Krasker fits the time and location well.

This film is unique in that it is a film that is just as much about manners as it is a film about idealism versus realism, or the clash between American and British ideologies. It is a thinking man’s thriller. At the end of the day, this film adaptation ranks as one of my favorites that I have ever seen. I found the movie to be pure cinematic bliss. Absolute perfection. Highly recommended.

Video: How’s it look?

Twilight Time is working with a new transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a new 2K restoration. This new transfer is easily one of the most beautiful transfers of a Black and White film that I have seen this year. The film has a similar look to the treatment that Criterion gave Sweet Smell of Success, with beautifully realized depth and clarity. The gray and black tones are crystal clear, and the level of detail is excellent. As can be expected, during transition scenes there is the occasional loss of clarity. On top of that, the cinematography by the legendary Robert Krasker (The Third Man) is truly remarkable. This is a great example of how much the Blu-Ray format can make black and a white shine.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Twilight Time have provided a very capable DTs-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that has excellent clarity and fidelity to the original elements. The score by Mario Nascimbene works beautifully for the film. Fans should be very pleased with how engrossing the film sounds considering its age.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

The Quiet American is easily one of the best films I have watched this year. I have lived the novel for years, and now I can watch the movie whenever I feel like it. Twilight Time has provided an absolutely pristine transfer of the film, and despite the lack of supplements, I urge you to purchase this film immediately. I can’t wait to watch this one again soon.

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