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The Ugly American Reviews

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Sean G

Super Reviewer

August 10, 2011
If only President Johnson had watched and understood this film.
Mike T

Super Reviewer

November 4, 2006
Englund's direction fails to spark any excitement in the audience, but Brando's volatile and passionately emotional performance keeps the film afloat. An interesting enough story and impressive enough acting that I would say this is a must-see for any Brando fan.
October 24, 2010
A 1963 message from Universal Studios intended to persuade a docile American public to take note of their own country's covert and simmering foreign policy that, soon enough, would create the debacle of the Vietnam War.

The film would serve well as a fictional primer for viewers who understand little as to how the War - and America's involvement in it - arose. America assigns a neophyte ambassador (Brando) to the fictitious Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan, largely due to his close ties to a national hero now spearheading insurgency (Okada).

Brando comes on like Wyatt Earp, alienating his own staff and Okada. Brando's shallow understanding of the political landscape leads to a series of poorly-conceived political gambits and disastrous outcomes that leaves Brando's tail between his legs, much as the Vietnam war did to America.

The Sarkhan storyline carries the notion of "thinly veiled reference" to lofty new heights, speaking of Communists in North Sarkhan and China aching to invade, Sarkhan's puppet government as installed by the Americans, the future U.S. intention to warmonger in Sarkhan, etc.

The film also contains reference to other CIA mischief, such as its cozy relationship with Batista's Cuba, well before the true nature of the CIA was widely recognized.

Overall, Brando's performance is worthy but not quite as dramatic as his better deliveries. Okada holds his own against such formidable company. One film highlight is a quite dramatic and intensely-dialoged intellectual joust between Brando and Okada regarding who's right and wrong about what's a-brewing.

How could have any adult in 1964 America actually believed entry into Vietnam was due to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident after the release of this film just the year prior?

Today, the film's major recommendations are the historical and contextual political commentary it provides - and its cinematographic glimpses of 1963 Thailand.
April 10, 2014
Wow, I'm impressed by this movie. The chemistry between Brando and Eiji Okada was very convincing. Also, I can only imaging how many people it must have woken up back in 1963. Despite being so dated, this movie may hold strong enough to wake people even today.
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