THE QUIET AMERICAN, the 1958 version, is of mild interest for several reasons. Graham Greene’s story tells of an idealistic Yank’s fateful sojourn to French Indochina, the jaded Englishman he befriends and the Eurasian woman who loves them both, set against a background of political turmoil.
The superlative take came in 2002, but this one is notable for having been put together by the capable hand of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed, produced, and wrote the screenplay. Offbeat cast-pairing of Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave and the novelty that it was shot over in then-mysterious Vietnam add to the curiosity.
Alas, most of Greene’s biting insights into the looming morass in SE Asia are gone, and the production is lackluster. Film lacks color, literal and figurative, and drags overlong at two hours. Murphy is pleasant, but not very compelling, Mankiewicz unable to coax out of the likable but limited actor the subtleties John Huston had managed with him: acting honors go to Redgrave, hands down. To be fair to Murph, he’s not helped any by the dulled script and the poor use of at-hand background flavor.