26 August 2013 | GordJackson
As Riveting As Ever.
I remember first seeing "The Ugly American" upon its initial release in 1963, and I equally remember immediately linking it with what was happening in Viet Nam. I found it absorbing and timely then just as I do today.
As the American ambassador with a total white hat/black hat mentality, Marlon Brando in my opinion gives one of his best performances. There's the shouting and the strutting, but there are also some very, eerily quiet, contrasting moments when he simply lets the frustration of his character all hang out.
As his former best friend and now rebel leader of the fictional Sarkan to which Brando's Ambassador White has been posted, Ejii Okada is every bit Brando's equal. Their sharp exchanges are riveting, as is so much of the dialogue in this film, dialogue-heavy moments that I do not personally find boring because what they are discussing strikes me as being as important today as in 1963 when this film was first released.
I do recognize that some reviewers were terribly disappointed (maybe even offended) that the film was not a recapitulation of an apparently well written, highly complex novel which I haven't read yet but intend to if I can find a copy. However, no matter how great the book, shouldn't a film be judged as a film because it is not a book? For one thing, movies don't have the luxury of an endless running time, a constraint not put upon the number of pages needed to tell a print story. Also, is not the punctuation, grammar and syntax of image quite different than that of print?
Finally, as others have said, it is too bad (a) "The Ugly American" has been mostly forgotten (if it has ever been heard of) and (b) the powerful message that ends this picture is still as relevant today as it was in 1963. Indeed, if anything it is even more (very sadly) spot-on than it was then.