Director Phillip Noyce is perhaps best known for his film adaptations of two Tom Clancy novels: Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. This past year, however, Noyce released two films that earned him greater respect amongst film critics. These films do not have the flash and dazzle of box office hits; there is no Jack Ryan to save the day in either piece. But they do offer compelling, unique, and memorable stories that will have viewers talking about them for a long time after leaving the theatre.

Both films involve the damage done when trying to shape the futures of lives one does not understand. One offers the tension of pre-war Vietnam, where a British journalist and an American official argue over who can offer a better life for a beautiful Vietnamese woman. The other takes us on a breathtaking adventure through sun-scorched Australia as Aborigine children try to escape presumptuous English bureaucrats.

Caine and Fraser shine in Graham Green's The Quiet American

Actor Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules) gives what I believe is his most accomplished screen performance in Noyce's adaptation of the 1955 Graham Greene novelThe Quiet American. Caine plays Thomas Fowler, a British journalist living in Vietnam in the early '50s. Fowler is cocky and cool, even lazy, savoring the exotic sights and sounds of his new home and relaxing in the company of Phuong, his beautiful young Vietnamese girlfriend (Do Thi Hai Yen). In his arrogance and self-absorption, Fowler avoids thinking about the wife he is neglecting back home in London, but her Catholic convictions haunt him. He stifles his conscience on the matter, just as he treats his responsibilities as a journalist lightly. When another man arrives and ...

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