The Constant Gardener

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' follow-up to his startling CITY OF GOD (2003) is a sophisticated, deadly serious thriller that sticks close to John le Carré's sobering novel of diplomatic intrigue and corporate shenanigans in Africa. Over the course of his not terribly distinguished career, elegant Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a midlevel diplomat...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' follow-up to his startling CITY OF GOD (2003) is a sophisticated, deadly serious thriller that sticks close to John le Carré's sobering novel of diplomatic intrigue and corporate shenanigans in Africa. Over the course of his not terribly distinguished career, elegant Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a midlevel diplomat in the British High Commission, has done nothing extraordinary to raise his profile. More important, he's done nothing to ruffle the feathers of the powers that be, particularly those of immediate superior Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston) or the high commissioner himself, Sir Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy). Quayle's fiery — and considerably younger — wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), however, is a different matter. A dedicated activist who met and married Quayle while she was still a law student, Tessa has taken full advantage of his posting to the High Commission in Nairobi to pursue her own desire to expose governmental corruption, particularly regarding health care for impoverished Africans. Tessa's activities come to an abrupt halt the morning her brutally murdered body is found in an overturned Jeep on the edge of a remote, crocodile-infested lake close to the Sudanese/Kenyan border. Conspicuously missing from the scene of the crime is Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Kounde), the African-born head of a Belgian medical NGO who met Tessa at a nearby hotel the day before her murder and whom many suspect of having been Tessa's lover — and her killer. Shattered by his wife's death, Justin returns to London, but gets the distinct impression that he's being watched: His passport is confiscated, and it seems certain parties will stop at nothing to get their hands on Tessa's laptop. Increasingly convinced that his wife's death is closely connected to questions she was asking about the free health care poor Kenyans were receiving from a foreign drug company, Justin returns to Africa to search for Tessa's killers. As he comes ever closer to the truth, he learns the meaning of sacrifice and living for a cause larger than oneself. Rather than trading le Carré's downbeat but agonizingly true-to-life ending for something more palatable, Meirelles has crafted a rare sort of thriller that refuses to resolve real-life issues for the sake of feel-good entertainment. While not nearly as kinetic as CITY OF GOD, the film shares its grainy, blown-out look (both were shot by cinematographer Cesar Charlone), and in its own quiet way, is just as explosive.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' follow-up to his startling CITY OF GOD (2003) is a sophisticated, deadly serious thriller that sticks close to John le Carré's sobering novel of diplomatic intrigue and corporate shenanigans in Africa. Over the course… (more)

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