The Quiet American (Soundtrack) by Craig Armstrong



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The Quiet American (Soundtrack) by Craig Armstrong

"The Quiet Success"
Review by Matt Peterson


The Quiet American (Soundtrack) by Craig Armstrong

The Quiet American

The Quiet American (Soundtrack) by Craig Armstrong

Category    Score

Originality 8
Music Selection 8
Composition 8
CD Length 8
Track Order 8
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10



Real Audio Clips




Craig Armstrong
Craig Armstrong


Quick Quotes

" I can't deny that overall, Armstrong mixes his location music with a modern sensibility quite well, even if it isn't really appropriate to give it such a modern feel given the 1950's setting. There are some well wrought, dramatic interludes, but there is a distinct sameness to the percussive tracks. "

Tom Daish - Soundtrack Express Reviews:  The Quiet American




Music composed, arranged and orchestrated by Craig Armstrong
Vocals by Hong Nhung
Released Commercially by Varese Sarabande: March 4th, 2003
Promotional release: December 2002

Many noteworthy films fell between the cracks in 2002. One of the best films of the year, Philip Noyce's The Quiet American, was in limited release by Miramax in late 2002 for Oscar contention. Due to Michael Caine's Academy Award nomination for best actor, the film has finally gone wide. Based on the novel by Graham Greene, The Quiet American tells the tale of Fowler, a British journalist (Caine) on long-term assignment in Saigon in 1952. He befriends Pyle (Brendan Fraser) a quiet American aid worker whose hidden agenda plunges Caine into personal and political turmoil. Faced with the turbulent backdrop of 1950s Vietnam, and losing the woman he loves to his friend Pyle, Fowler must choose between loyalty and personal stability.

2002 was a banner year for director Philip Noyce. Along with Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American garnered great critical success and admiration. Until recently, Noyce has been characterized as an accomplished action film director, helming such films as Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, and The Saint. When Noyce approached Michael Caine about playing the lead role, he agreed on one condition: Craig Armstrong must score the film. Noyce revealed that Armstrong had already been hired.

Due to overwhelming critical acclaim for his contribution to the music of Moulin Rouge, British composer Craig Armstrong is a name that has become quite familiar. His subdued style for The Quiet American is unique, blending traditional orchestral elements with electronic motifs, native instruments, and a lone, haunting female Vietnamese vocal. Piano phrases, heard in The Bone Collector, Armstrong's previous collaboration with Noyce, are a welcome addition. However, it is the vital contributions of the vocals, and a rich bass string section that bring a needed sense of depth to the score. The elements blend very well, creating a smooth, rhythmic score that is both pleasing to listen to, and effective in its cinematic context. Thematically, the score is quite simplistic. The main theme is a majestic, mysterious tune that incorporates western motifs with Asian chord progressions. Overall, Armstrong's effort succeeds admirably, despite the apparent lack of depth in a few tracks.

The release of Armstrong's score was met with difficulty. In late 2002, the score was slated to be released by Varese Sarabande around the time of the film's limited release. However, the initial release was canceled, causing Armstrong to issue a limited promotional album for Academy consideration. Thankfully, the film's success convinced Varese to release the score commercially in 2003. As a result, there are some differences between the two releases, both in cover art and track titles (see below for details).

The promotional album, reviewed here, clocks in at 48:04, and features the vast majority of Armstrong's stellar score. Highlights include the first two tracks, which introduce the listener to the score's main motifs: An Asian-flavored main theme characterized by very deliberate piano chords, and the haunting Vietnamese voice, featured at great length on "Saigon, 1952," the track which opens the film. The gentle vocals of "Brothers in Arms" reminds me of the vocal progressions of John Williams' Empire of the Sun. The score thunders to new musical heights with its sparse, dramatic action cues, including "Death in the Square" (influenced vocally by Williams' A.I. Artificial Intelligence) and "The Ritual of Revenge." These are the best tracks of the album. The seamless blending of vocals, ethnic instruments and main themes create a charged, momentum inducing set of cues. Electronic elements and percussion help maintain a rhythmic consistency that heightens tension, and drives the score into new territory, while maintaining a sense of consistency with its more subdued cues. Some of the tracks, including "Pyle's Best Friend/Asking for a Divorce" are a bit thin on on their own, yet serve their purpose in the film. The end title song, "Nothing In This World (Song for Phoung)" is a refreshing vocal work, featuring the motifs heard throughout the score in a new, pop-laden context. The discerning listener will immediately recognize its style: It sounds like a main title song for a James Bond film. The ballad could easily accompany a stylized montage of women, guns and martinis. Could this be a foreshadowing of Armstrong's future musical pursuits...?

Aside from the cinematic excellence of Noyce's The Quiet American, the film features a very strong, ethnically flavored score by one of today's up and coming film composers. The score's rich, mellow quality creates a soothing listening experience that will not disappoint. Action music lovers will also enjoy the score's infrequent, charged cues, which bring a sense of musical balance to the album. Recommended.

Promotional Disc Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 The Quiet AmericanTrack 2 - Across the Stars 5:57  ****
2 Saigon 1952 4:54  ****
3 Pyle's Best Friend/Asking for a Divorce 3:22  ***
4 Drive Up Holy Mountain/The General Track 2 - Across the Stars 3:02  ****
5 Brothers in Arms 3:21  ****
6 Escape from Watchtower/Dreams of Phuong 2:42  ****
7 Death in the Square 3:28  *****
8 Fowler's Temptation 3:29  ***
9 The Quiet American Piano Solo 3:41  ***
10 The Ritual of Revenge 4:44  *****
11 Will You Let My Hair Down? 5:04  ****
12 End Titles - Nothing in This World (Song for Phoung) 4:12  ****

Total Running Time


Official Release (Varese Sarabande) Track Listing and Ratings

1. The Quiet American
2. Saigon 1952
3. Pyle's Best Friend/Asking for A Divorce
4. Drive Up Holy Mountain/The General
5. Brothers In Arms
6. Escape from Watchtower/Dreams of Phuong
7. Death In the Square
8. Fowler's Temptation
9. The Quiet American (Piano Solo)
10. The Ritual of Revenge
11. Do You Still Miss Him?
12. End Titles (Nothing In This World)

The Quiet American (Soundtrack) by Craig Armstrong

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
The Bone Collector



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