Published Sep 01, 2005Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) uses his considerable visual flair to bring to the screen John le Carré's story of greed, corruption and African exploitation at the hands of Big Business.
The Constant Gardener follows mild-mannered diplomat and avid gardener Justin's (Ralph Fiennes) search for the truth after his activist wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), is found murdered while they are stationed in Kenya. Tessa had discovered that a pharmaceutical company was using Kenyan patients as guinea pigs for their untested drugs, with deadly results. When Justin uncovers this conspiracy, and how far-reaching it is, his life becomes threatened as well and he has to go underground to finish what Tessa started.
The script, adapted by Jeffrey Caine, has a nice non-linear structure that keeps coming back to the beginning of Justin and Tessa's relationship as an emotional anchor for the rest of the film's action-packed events. The story is interesting and relevant, as well as being genuinely suspenseful and having an ending that doesn't cop out and sell short the material, which is quite satisfying and true. It is, however, yet another mainstream film looking at African issues through the eyes of a white, middle class protagonist, which is a bit of a tired genre that I was hoping the success of Hotel Rwanda might lay to rest.
To combat this perception, the film (or its marketing engine) is selling its director as having some developing world street cred that increases his, and therefore the movie's, sensitivity to the world it portrays. No matter what, Meirelles is a brilliant director. This movie is extremely well shot and edited, with a beautiful grainy look, dreamy over-exposed flashbacks, and a knack for matching the script's increasingly paranoid world with a filmic urgency that drives the story and keeps the viewer on edge. (Alliance Atlantis)