1) The film “The Quiet American” has its immediate context in the war between communist Vietnamese forces and French colonial rulers. It is set in 1952 and therefore takes place in the final years of the conflict war, which is usually understood to have begun in 1946. Importantly, the film also takes place during the emergence of Cold War international politics. As such, its wider context is the development of interventionist policies by the US and an increasing belief in the necessity of containing communist communism throughout the world.
As such, the context of the film can also be understood to be the end of one particular kind of colonial rule and the introduction of the rule through the extension and maintenance of Cold War spheres of influence, in which opposing world super-powers would seek to further their own ideological interests via indirect conflict and antagonism, rather than through direct confrontation. The overall context of the film is therefore the rise of Cold War espionage and interventionist foreign policy in the US. This context can be seen to be present not only in the plot of the film itself, but also with regard to its moral ambiguity and the self-interested, occasionally cynical actions taken by the two major characters.
2) Fowler reacts with incredulity after Pyle suggests that Vietnam should hold an election. This incredulity stems from the fact that he does not believe that it is possible to transpose western ideas of freedom of choice onto a Vietnamese situation. In order to illustrate this, he suggests that if there was to be a free election in Vietnam then the people would elect Ho Chi Minh.
3) When he travels to Phat Diem, Fowler witnesses the aftermath of a massacre in which towns people appear to have been indiscriminately murdered. The French soldier present suggests that it must have been either communists or a “third” force. However, Fowler does not believe that it would ever be in the interests of communists to commit such an atrocity. As the film progresses he comes to suspect General The, who clearly has links to emerging US interests in Vietnam.
4) General is presented as a young ego-maniac who seeks to rule Vietnam as an alternative to both French and communist forces. Pyle responds to his first sighting of him by stating that he considers him to be impressive and charismatic, while Fowler insists that he must be an ego-maniac. As such, he becomes the embodiment of the former’s conception of a “third” force. This is something that is confirmed when Fowler travels to interview the general and makes rudimentary investigations regarding his capacity to fund his own army. As the film progresses, it is made clear that The is being funded by US interests, something that Fowler works to expose .
5) Fowler is the films central character, and stands as a morally flawed, singular individual. His motivations are largely selfish, however he is clearly intelligent and feels genuine love for Phuong, together a genuine abhorrence of what is revealed to be Pyle’ ruthless nature and self-interest. As such, he can be taken to represent English stoicism, together with an awareness that such an attitude is ultimately powerless in the face of Cold War politics. Pyle can be seen to possess the combination of youthful idealism and ruthless ambition that Greene observed in American ideology. While he initially appears to be genuinely interested in Vietnamese authority, as the film progresses it is made clear that there he is willing to pursue any means in order to secure US interests, something made most obvious in his indiscriminate support of General The and his false flag operations in Saigon. Phuong is presented as being caught between these two men, and as such she can be taken as Vietnamese every-man character who is unable to choose a life for herself. She is primarily motivated by the need for security; something that she is unable to achieve on her own.