The Constant Gardener

"Good"

The Constant Gardener Review


A preachy but gripping socio-political thriller, "TheConstant Gardener" captures the parched beauty of African desert nations,personifies the horrors of their poverty in dusty, sunburned detail, andpulls no punches in its view of greedy drug companies that feign altruismbut view encroaching epidemics as lucrative boons for their stockholders.

Based on the John Le Carre novel of the same name, thefilm's politics are couched in a brutal and twist-filled murder mystery.Ralph Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, a dry, charmingly wonky English diplomatwhose bottled adoration for his eye-catching young wife (Rachel Weisz)-- an impetuous, impassioned human rights activist his colleagues hopehe won't bring to parties -- becomes dangerously uncorked when she is killedand mutilated while on an aid mission.

Realizing there's more to her death than meets the eyewhen his inquiries for more information are deflected by even his closestassociates -- and suspecting she may have been up to something more aswell -- Quayle drops off the diplomatic radar and begins a dangerous amateurinvestigation that puts him in the crosshairs of corrupt politicians, corporatestooges and ruthless warlords.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles with the same unblinking,sweaty, ground-level grittiness he brought to "City of God,"his brilliant verite expose of Brazilian poverty, "The Constant Gardener"becomes an incredible puzzle with far-flung pieces that Quayle must linktogether with tenuous but damning evidence. And whether he travels to Londonor hitches a lift with the Red Cross to a remote village in Kenya devastatedby disease (in order to interrogate a particular doctor), he's under suchconstant threat that in some scenes it feels as if any background actorcould be a hired killer closing in.

Through almost lyrical, psyche-tapping editing and dynamic,voyeuristic photography, Meirelles parallels this tension with intimatescenes (both romantic and contentious) from Quayle's courtship and marriage,providing a tender, human driving force for his determination. Weisz ("TheMummy," "TheShape of Things") embodies her martyredcharacter with an appealing balance of femininity, intrepidness and fierce,intelligent determination (especially in her boots-on-the-ground aid efforts,even while pregnant). Fiennes percolates with bliss sublimated by the angstof a man who competes for attention with his wife's other passions.

But upon seeing her body, these contrasting parts of hispsyche forge together into single-minded resolve that threatens to turnself-destructive, as Quayle never stops to think what he'll do with thecomplete picture of her murder once all the pieces are in place.

While the film's underlying but overt humanitarian messageis likely to rankle wealthy cheerleaders for corporate autonomy, "TheConstant Gardener" (the title comes from Quayle's metaphorical backyardhobby) has a handful of real problems as well, not the least of which ispotential confusion stemming from the unfolding intrigue.

It's a plus for the mystery that the audience never knowsmore than Quayle as he sticks his nose where it's not wanted. But witha large roster of shadowy figures, it's easy to lose track of characterswho later become pivotal to the emerging conspiracy. As if to make up forthis, a scene late in the film backpedals into raw exposition that is almostworse than the confusion (and fails to clear up the points that perplexedme personally). A smaller jolt of awkwardness comes from a throwaway lineabout Weisz's character being only 24 years old, which doesn't jibe withher worldliness and extensive experience, or the fact that the actressis actually 10 years older.

But "The Constant Gardener" has the power toovercome such faults and tell a riveting story while making unequivocalstatements about drug testing and pricing, Western aid to impoverishedcountries, and the upheaval and anarchy that result when the motives forthat aid are not pure. Like "The China Syndrome," "Silkwood"and "TheInsider," it's a political thriller inthe best sense of the term -- turning over crucial rocks, but engrossingthe audience with the nail-biting process, not with what it finds underneath.



The Constant Gardener

Facts and Figures

Run time: 129 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 31st August 2005

Box Office USA: $33.6M

Box Office Worldwide: $82.5M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Focus Features

Production compaines: Potboiler Productions Ltd., Scion Films Limited, Focus Features, UK Film Council, Epsilon Motion Pictures, Vierte Babelsberg Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 153 Rotten: 30

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Justin Quayle, as Tessa Quayle, as Sandy Woodrow, as Sir Bernard Pellegrin, as Tim Donohue, as Dr. Lorbeer aka Dr. Brandt, as Arthur "Ham" Hammond, Hubert Koundé as Dr. Arnold Bluhm, as Miriam, Bernard Otieno Oduor as Jomo, Damaris Itenyo Agweyu as Jomo's Wife, Keith Pearson as Porter Coleridge, John Sibi-Okumu as Dr. Joshua Ngaba, as Ghita Pearson, as Sir Kenneth Curtiss, as Gloria Woodrow, Jacqueline Maribe as Wanza Kiluhu, Donald Apiyo as Kioko, Anneke Kim Sarnau as Birgit

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.