The Quiet American

Synopsis: British Thomas Fowler enjoys his life in Saigon working as a reporter for the London Times, covering the conflict in Vietnam between the colonial French powers and the communists, who seem to be winning the war. In the later stages of his career, he takes his job lightly now, filing stories only on occasion, and no longer doing field work. But most important, this posting allows him to escape from what he considers a dreary life in London--including an unsatisfying marriage to a Catholic woman, who will never grant him a divorce--which in turn allows him to have an affair with a young Vietnamese ex-taxi dancer named Phuong, whom he loves and would marry if he were able. Phuong's sister doesn't much like Fowler if only because Fowler cannot provide a stable future for her. His idyllic life is threatened when head office suggests he go back to London. In this way, he decides to write a major story to prove to his superiors that he should stay in Saigon. In 1952, Fowler is called into the
Director(s): Phillip Noyce
Production: Miramax Films
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 13 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
101 min

'I can't say what made me

fall in love with Vietnam.

'That a woman's voice can drug you?

'That everything is so intense,

'the colours,

'the taste,

'even the rain?

'Nothing like the filthy rain in London.'

'They say whatever you're looking for

'you will find here.

'They say you come to Vietnam

'and you understand a lot

in a few minutes.

'But the rest has got to be lived.

'The smell,

that's the first thing that hits you,

'promising everything

in exchange for your soul.

'And the heat.

'Your shirt is straight away a rag.

'You can hardly remember your name,

'or what you came to escape from.

'But at night, there's a breeze.

'The river is beautiful.

'You could be forgiven for thinking

there was no war,

'that the gunshots were fireworks,

'that only pleasure matters.

'A pipe of opium,

'or the touch of a girl

who might tell you she loves you.

'And then something happens,

'as you knew it would,

'and nothing can ever

be the same again.'

Monsieur Fowler.

Thank you for coming in.

I'm sorry to ask you at this hour.

I know about as much as you do.

He's an American. He's about 30.

He works for the Economic Aid Mission.

And I like him.

He's a very good chap. Serious.

Not like those noisy bastards

down at the Continental.

He's a quiet American.

Yes. A very quiet American.

He's dead, isn't he?

Not guilty.

I just put two and two together.

He was killed by a knife.

Can you identify him?


He was... a friend.

To tell you the truth,

I'm not completely sorry.

These Americans are causing

a lot of trouble to us.

But still, a murder is a murder.

Anything to help us?


Nothing at all.



...est mort.



He was stabbed.


He was in love with me.

Yes. He was.

I'm so sorry, Phuong.

I go to my mother's.

I must think.

'I met Pyle

where you meet everybody,

'at the Hotel Continental.

'I'm there every morning at 11.00.

'I'm English. I have habits. I drink tea.

'I'm a reporter, so I listen.

'I have a lover. I like to watch her

arrive at the milk bar.

'And there was Alden Pyle.

'A face with no history

and no problems.

'The face we all had once.'

- I'm Alden Pyle.

- I'm Thomas Fowler.

- The London Times.

- You've done your homework.

I've read your articles.

- May I join you?

- Please.

And what brings you to Saigon,

Mr Pyle?

I'm with the Economic Aid Mission,

on the medical side.

Eye disease. Do know trachoma?

It's very common here. Very easy to treat.

- Are you staying at the hotel?

- No. I just dropped by for tea.

On the way to the office.

This is really a stroke of luck for me.

You're one of the few correspondents

who goes out into the field

to see what's happening.

Not any more. Besides, I have never

thought of myself as a correspondent.

I'm just a reporter.

I offer no point of view.

I take no action. I don't get involved.

I just report what I see.

- But you must have an opinion.

- Even an opinion is a form of action.

Still, I'd appreciate...

'Pyle was hungry for everything

I could tell him about Vietnam

'and her fight for independence.

'Why were the French losing the war?

'And why were the communists winning?

'Then he saw Phuong.

'I should have realised how saving

a country and saving a woman

'could be the same thing

to someone like Pyle.'

We've got to contain


'What could be done,

what should be done,

'what he thought, what he'd read.

'He made me remember

there was a time

'when I had wanted

to make a difference.'

- To watch liberty snuffed out?

- "Liberty" is a western word.

How do you define it

for the Vietnamese?

The freedom to choose.

OK, you give them that, they vote

and they elect Ho Chi Minh.

Things are more complicated

than they seem.

- What was that?

- A grenade.

- It sounded like a car backfiring.

- A week here, you'll know the difference.

It's been a genuine pleasure

meeting you.

- Maybe we could eat dinner.

- I look forward to it.


Good morning.

Morning, Hinh. Anything new?

Oh, corruption, mendacity...

I said new.

There is a rumour

that the communists

are planning an attack

in the north, at Phat Diem.

One of your contacts?

Yes, sir.

And a telegram.

- From the London office.

- Mr Stemins.

He says the paper has conducted

a review of the foreign desk.

He wants you based in London.


I thought you liked London, sir.

I do, but I like it just where it is.

I don't want to bloody go there.

For what? A desk job?

They probably think it's cheaper

to let the wire services cover Vietnam.

How many stories

have we given them?

This year?

- Yes.

- Three.

Oh, sh*t.

Maybe... I should go up there.

- Where, sir?

- Phat Diem.

It's not an easy place to get into,

with the communist attack.

Send a cable to Stemins.

"Understand your current concern.


"Am working on a story

of major proportions. Stop.

"Suggest I remain in Saigon

until completed. Stop.


Which story is that, sir?

I don't know.

But I'm sure you know someone

who can get me in there.

Today our anniversary. Did you forget?

Can it be two years already?

- Yes.

- Yes?

Be careful with me. I'm old and fragile.

Not so old.

Not so fragile.



- Hello.

- Hello again.

I'm here with some friends.

Care to join us?

- Phuong, this is Mr Pyle.

- Alden, please.

Delighted to meet you too.

Please excuse my bad French.

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Christopher Hampton

Christopher James Hampton, CBE, FRSL (born 26 January 1946) is a British playwright, screenwriter, translator and film director. He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses and the film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and also more recently for writing the nominated screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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