\\\\\\\"The Ugly American\\\\\\\" was released right before the Vietnam War started (depending on which stage of it), and now it seems more relevant than ever. Harrison MacWhite (Marlon Brando) becomes ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation of Sarkhan, which is on the verge of civil war between the Communists and the pro-US government. In Sarkhan, MacWhite begins to suspect that US intervention in this country might be prompting people to rebel. While he refuses to accept it, the situation becomes more and more tense, and MacWhite\\\\\\\'s officially neutral position becomes less and less sustainable.
You can\\\\\\\'t say for certain what the movie\\\\\\\'s political message is, but we might take MacWhite\\\\\\\'s speech at the end as a good reminder. Either way, this is one of the many movies that showed how great an actor Marlon Brando was.
Naiveté and simplicity are not the hallmarks of this wonderful cinematic masterpiece, as other commentators would have you believe. Instead, this film presents a 40 year old allegory of everything that America is doing wrong today. One becomes \\\\\\\'gelé\\\\\\\' as each morsel of film unrolls and presents us with chilling portents of what is to become of American foreign policy, today, in the 21st century.
I find it almost disturbing that the authors and screen-writers knew -- in 1963 -- that the United States would deteriorate into the war-mongering world-wide dictatorship that it has now become. Every single element portrayed in \\\\\\\"The Ugly American\\\\\\\" -- from the U.S. military/industrial complex to the quest for phoney \\\\\\\'freedom\\\\\\\', to the self-righteous White pitying of the starving and wretched Coloreds, to the supposed fight for \\\\\\\'democracy\\\\\\\' -- has become the cause celebré of the red-state revolution, the Republican manifesto.
This film is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Burdick and Lederer, but departs from the novel in some significant particulars that I won\\\\\\\'t get into here. I think it is important to view this film as a period piece. Released in 1963 before the assassination of JFK and the escalation of the war in Viet Nam, the story retains a certain degree of naiveté about the role of the United States in the world and the perceptions of the United States that existed in other countries. This film would have looked quite different had it been shot in 1968 or 1969, by which time the country had long since shed any illusions about the nation\\\\\\\'s role in the world. In some ways, this provides a kind of still photo of the United States just prior to the Kennedy assassination and the tumultuous sequence of events that unfolded afterward. For that reason, this is a fascinating period piece that survives Brando\\\\\\\'s chewing on the scenery and a screen play that departs in unfortunate ways from the outstanding novel.