Quiet American, The (UK - BD RB)
The next Miramax BD for Marcus takes him to Vietnam with Michael Caine....
Saigon, Vietnam the early 50s. Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine) a British journalist is in love with Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), a young Vietnamese girl but when Pyle (Brendan Fraser) an American strategic operative who is seemingly steering the war for America’s own interest also falls for the beautiful woman, the two men’s relationship becomes strained.
The Quiet American is really two films. The first is a look into America’s involvement that led to the Vietnam War the second is a love triangle between two men who want the best for Phoung. Strangely these two very different threads coexist incredibly well and even though the war side of things isn’t quite as explored as the love triangle at times the intertwining of the two somehow feels seamless.
The story is told by Michael Caine’s character with almost poetic narration. His character has a way of speaking that fits his voice perfectly and his relationship with Pyle provides a playing ground for more. The two have a friendship that seems to rely solely on honesty. Pyle loves Fowler's woman and he intends to marry her. This hasn’t really been discussed with Phoung but when all three discuss the situation in the calmest of fashions, the two men are even supportive of each other's intentions even though they obviously have opposing agendas. They remain friends and openly discuss their rivalry, never in a playful way, just as a matter of fact and when they meet up with each other after spells of being apart are very fond of one another. It’s an odd relationship but a deep one and really the core of what makes this story work so well.
As for the war backdrop, this too is well handled. When it over powers the love triangle in a few scenes such as the devastation of a small village by the unseen army or the bombing of Saigon, the instability of Vietnam is really shown. The outcome of both events is truly horrifying and Michael Caine’s performance in both scenes is pitch perfect. The Quiet American is another great film in the Miramax catalogue, even if it feels like one of the lesser appreciated ones. But how does this catalogue title look in HD?
And I thought The Talented Mr. Ripley Looked bad. From the opening credits The Quiet American looks rough (especially when compared to the truely awesome HD Miramax logo on these releases). The opening shot of the Vietnamese cityscape looks soft, grainy, grubby and just plain off. The warfare raging in the background does little to light up the sky "like fireworks" as the Michael Caine narration tells us it does and really nothing gets much better. In fact it gets worse.
The daytime scenes are so light it makes colours all but disappear. The interior scenes look bad with grubby blacks and all that grain, the exterior scenes fare worse, especially at night. In fact the scene with the outpost getting attacked has some of the worst images I’ve ever seen on a Blu-ray release with varying levels of grain and visuals that are quite inexcusable.
The sad thing is, this is a pretty looking film. You can see the bold colours, the reds and golds of the club, the brightly lit streets at night and the sun beating down in the day. The sets are well dressed, there’s plenty of great costumes and there’s a hint at some fantastic detail in close ups (if you can see past the juandis skin tones) and even some of the wide shots but its like looking at all these positives though a gauze. All the good stuff HD presents so well is under a blanket of grain and grubbiness and even though there are a handful of shots that overcome these issues (during some of the daytime scenes) they are fleeting glimpses before we cut to another god awful looking scene. I honestly can’t think of a worse looking disc in the Blu-ray catalogue.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track fares much better than the video. The music and narration begins in the front speakers. Both strong and clear. The score reaches out to the rears well and creates a nice atmosphere but it’s the sounds in and around the city that make this track shine. The hustle and bustle of busy streets, birds, warfare, cows you name it, something will be there and they all sound pretty damn alive with it. The track feels wide and it really feels like things are genuinely going on around you sometimes, from the obvious to the subtle. Sounds through walls or down an alley or whatever else makes the world of The Quiet American come to life and while it’s not on par with the sweeping epics or the roughest action movies there’s a realism here that was very effective.
The commentary by Australian director Phillip Noyce is as much a history lesson as it is a commentary track. We get a huge backstory regarding Noyce’s connection to Vietnam, the original book and even Australia’s connection with the Vietnam war itself This story and period of history feels very personal to Noyce’s heart and his passion is captured in this part of the track . On top of that we get other elements from crew and cast towards the end of the track and all in all this is a solid commentary.
‘Anatomy of a Scene’ (21:32 SD) covers the highly impactful bombing scene and how it was constructed. The ‘Original Featurette’ (05:19 SD) is a very brief look at the making of the film with a few intercut clips. There are 25 minutes worth of interviews with the cast and crew which all combined get fairly repetitive in regards to content and topic and finally we get B-Roll footage - part one the Fox Studios (03:39 SD) and part two, Vietnam (10:46 SD).
The Quiet American is another great Miramax movie and in its central performance from Michael Caine is fantastic. However this Blu-ray release is somewhat embarrassing. The audio is absolutely fine and there are a whole handful of good extras but the video presentation is one of the worst I’ve ever seen on the HD format. That’s two Studio Canal/Miramax titles down now and both have been appalling in the video department, lets hope the next one in the Miramax marathon turns it around.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 19th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Extras: Commentary, Featurette, Interviews, B-Roll, Anatomy of a Scene
Easter Egg: No
Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen
Genre: Drama and War
Length: 101 minutes
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