Saigon, 1952. A beautiful, exotic, and mysterious city caught in the grips of the Vietnamese war of liberation from the French colonial powers. New arrival Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), an idealistic American aid worker, befriends London Times correspondent Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine). When Fowler introduces Pyle to his beautiful young Vietnamese mistress Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen) the three become swept up in a tempestuous love triangle that leads to a series of startling revelations and finally – murder.

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Saigon, 1952, and Thomas Fowler, Michael Caine, correspondent for The Times, is living the good life far from his wife in London. Fowler's Vietnamese mistress, Phuong, Do Thi Hai Yen, is young enough to be his daughter, and the only cloud on his horizon is the fact that his paper may recall him home – Vietnam isn't very newsworthy, despite the conflict between the French colonial rulers and the Communist Viet Minh in the North.

Aden Pyle, Brendan Fraser, is a newcomer to Saigon, a quiet American, who works for a medical aid mission, or so he says. Pyle becomes Fowler's rival for Phuong but more than that – Pyle seems involved in an American government push to establish a third force in Vietnam – by any means, including violence.

Philip Noyce's superb adaptation of Graham Greene's novel, is his best film since Newsfront. The earlier version of the book, made in 1958 by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starred Michael Redgrave as Fowler and Audie Murphy as Pyle, but Mankiewicz was forced to reverse Greene's political stand. Noyce boldly films the book – partly on Vietnamese locations – without compromise, and the Americans come out of the story badly – Greene was very prescient in his examination of the root causes of the Vietnam conflict.

Caine gives one of his finest performances as the ageing journalist who sees his happiness slipping away from him, and Brendan Fraser precisely captures the apparently naive, certainly devious Pyle.