By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 13, 2003 at 5:13 AM

"The Quiet American" finally makes it to the screen after being pulled from the release schedule due to 9/11. Despite the fact it was shelved for a year and a half, the story could not be more poignant or timely.

Based on Graham Greene's 1955 novel, "American" is set in 1952 Saigon and zooms in on the events proceeding the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. During the time the novel was written, American society was in a state of pre-war, much like we are today, and the situation in Vietnam can be easily compared to modern day Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michael Caine is tremendous as Thomas Fowler, a past-his-prime journalist for "The London Times" living in Saigon as a correspondent. Fowler lives with young Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), a beautiful Vietnamese girl he cannot marry because his wife back in England will not grant him a divorce. To complicate matters, because they are "living in sin," Phuong is no longer eligible to date or marry a Vietnemese man.

At first, the relationship between Fowler and Pfuong seems questionable, but we learn that Phuong lost her father as a child, so her attraction to the much-older Fowler is better understood.

The film's first scene features Caine identifying the body of Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), a Baltimore native who is part of a U.S. mission to bring medical supplies into Vietnam. We later find out he is not the "gee whiz" guy he presents himself as, but then again, most of the characters in this film are complex and multi-faceted.

After id-ing the body, Caine goes to tell Phuong -- whom we originally meet as Fraser's girlfriend -- about the death. We are then tossed into a flashback, which is most of the film, and learn why Phuong moved from Fowler to Pyle, why both English-speaking men live in Saigon and exactly why Pyle is dubbed "The Quiet American." (Other than the obvious fact that he's dead.)

Fraser is good as the suspicious Eddie Haskell type, but it is Caine who steals the show. His narration is wonderful and his love of Vietnam is both believable and contagious.

Although we eventually feel sorry for Fowler, who winds up alone and with an opium addiction (an interesting paralell to his ether-addicted character in "Cider House Rules") it is fascinating to travel with him through struggles to keep his job, his girlfriend and his integrity.

Oscar or no Oscar, this film is not to be missed.

"The Quiet American" starts Fri., Feb. 14 at Landmark's Downer Theatre.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.