Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002

The Quiet American, Phillip Noyce, Australia-Vietnam

A cynic with a suitcase, Graham Greene roamed the world in search of human perfidy. He found plenty in Vietnam in the early '50s, where Americans and Europeans argued over who would get to run and ruin this beautiful country. Noyce is alert to all the nuances — as is Michael Caine, a weary revenger defending his right to a lovely Saigon mistress. The movie twins nicely with another fine Noyce effort, Rabbit-Proof Fence, a true story, set in the 1930s, about Aboriginal girls stolen from their families by the Australian government so they can be raised and "civilized" by whites. With crisp authority and deft artistry, both films speak sternly to would-be colonizers: Hands off these people! They're not yours.