Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Ugly American (1963)

Director: George Englund

Writers: William J. Lederer, Eugene Burdick, Stewart Stern

Composer: Frank Skinner

Starring: Marlon Brando, Eiji Okada, Sandra Church, Pat Hingle, Arthur Hill, Jocelyn Brando, Kukrit Pramoj, Judson Pratt, Reiko Sato, George Shibata

More info: IMDb


Plot: An intelligent, articulate scholar, Harrison MacWhite, survives a hostile Senate confirmation hearing at the hands of conservatives to become ambassador to Sarkan, a southeast Asian country where civil war threatens a tense peace. Despite his knowledge, once he's there, MacWhite sees only a dichotomy between the U.S. and Communism. He can't accept that anti-American sentiment might be a longing for self-determination and nationalism. So, he breaks from his friend Deong, a local opposition leader, ignores a foreman's advice about slowing the building of a road, and tries to muscle ahead. What price must the country and his friends pay for him to get some sense?

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Compelling.  Brando commands respect not only on the screen from the audience but from everyone he encounters in the film...and he gets it.  Right from his entrance as he's being grilled by the Senate for his ambassadorship, MacWhite (Brando) holds his own against, what soon becomes clear, the opposition.  He's a good man, a tough and thoughtful, educated man.  His friend, Deong (played by Japanese actor Okada), has been seeing things differently.  He's in a different position than MacWhite.  Deong's fire comes from his heart, his passion; MacWhite's is cerebral and logical.  Despite their differences, these two maintain their strong friendship and make tough decisions.  There's a lot of trust, the levels of which you wouldn't get between two men such as these in their positions if they weren't good friends.  This picture is heavy on dialogue and discussion and it's very well handled by first time director Englund.  I really enjoyed it and it's nice seeing Brando still giving a shit (at least with this film).  

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