Screengrab: That Movie You Just Got To Watch on Tv This Week…

RICHARD LUTZ opts for a classic  killer combo of Michael Caine and Graham Greene. It’s called The Quiet American


Ttv  watching old

British novelist Graham Greene loved Vietnam. He lived there every winter for five years in the early/ mid fifties as foreign correspondent, travel essayist, opium smoker.

He watched the morally bankrupt French colonial system implode and waited to see what would happen in the vacuum.  The novel, The Quiet American, reflected this affinity for the wartorn country. The film The Quiet American (Thur, 11.45pm, BBC1) is a fine and faithful portrayal of the book and of Greeneland-on-the-Delta.

Michael Caine is Thomas Fowler,a  world weary  hack for The Times. He is tired, in love with a taxi girl, cynical, transfixed by Saigon and suddenly summoned back to London. He knows he cannot  leave his mistress nor Vietnam.

He meets American aid worker Alden Pyle and his life is suddenly shunted into another gear. Brendan Fraser’s quiet American is really  a young CIA operative trying to organise a third way between the communist Viet Minh and the crumbling idiocies of the French. A political vacuum never survives- especially when the US takes an interest.

Caine is magnificent in this film from 2002. He is watching and living in a land which is heading towards a cliff. Director Phillip Noyce, a master at moody thrillers, paints a Vietnam awakening to the possibility of independence (which an audience knows will not happen for another two decades) and Fraser is the clumsy idealistic American with a good heart but dubious aims. Inevitably, Caine and Fraser bump into each other not only over Vietnam but Caine’s silent mistress (hey, a metaphor?)

This is literary Greeneland transposed to jungles, Indochinese cities, slow drinks in the heat and political  intrigue. Caine’s Thomas Fowler knows he cannot ever go back to Britain,  a broken marriage and a stalled career. But he will never see Vietnam tranquil. His own peace of mind is submerging into a gin glass, he is losing the love of his life and his  world is disintegrating. What to do? What to do?

Greeneland-on-the-Mekong, as Caine’s Thomas Fowler is forced to make decisions.