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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.79%
Worth A Look40.59%
Average: 13.86%
Pretty Bad: 18.81%
Total Crap: 5.94%

10 reviews, 41 user ratings

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Constant Gardener, The
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by EricDSnider

"A romantic/political/mystery thriller."
4 stars

There is a sense of urgency in "The Constant Gardener," the feeling that a lot is happening that must be discovered and dealt with immediately. It's a thriller -- political, criminal and marital -- but it's laden not so much with surprises as with realizations, both for the characters and for the audience.

It's the first film by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles since his deservedly praised "City of God" three years ago, and his first-ever film in English. Based on a John Le Carre novel and adapted by Jeffrey Caine ("GoldenEye"), "The Constant Gardener" can boast of prime cinematography by Cesar Charlone (Meirelles' regular), an engaging and multi-layered storyline, and a handsome, controlled performance by Ralph Fiennes.

Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, a British diplomat who helps oversee Her Majesty's humanitarian efforts in Africa. He is, to paraphrase W.S. Gilbert, the very model of a modern British diplomat, unflappable and polite, with a ready smile and friendly manners. He is in many ways the opposite of his fiery new wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz), a liberal do-gooder who first catches his attention when she shouts him down after he gives an overly tactful speech.

With her friend Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Kounde), she spends much of her time in Kenya, crusading against uncaring pharmaceutical companies and, to paraphrase Cake, using a machete to cut through red tape. She cares deeply about the suffering people of Kenya. She sees them not as an underprivileged group but as a collection of underprivileged individual human beings. When she wants to give three villagers a ride back to their homes, Justin reminds her that it's impossible to help everyone. "Yes, but here are three that we CAN help!" she cries. But Justin doesn't stop the car.

Then Tessa is killed and Arnold is nowhere to be found. We learn this early in the film because so much of the story is revealed out of sequence. The murder appears to have been the work of looters or bandits, but then evidence emerges that suggests it was more personal than that. Justin is left to learn what his wife was doing, to unmask her killers, and to finish her mission himself.

These are tall orders for a grieving widower, and he is not helped much by his friends. His pal Sandy (Danny Huston), a fellow diplomat, may have been sleeping with Tessa. Justin had reason to believe, even before her death, that she was having an affair with Arnold, too. Furthermore, Tessa had irritated a lot of British diplomats with her questions about what the drug companies were doing during their supposedly selfless attempts to bring medical treatment to the Kenyans.

We don't learn anything before Justin does, which means we see it all through Ralph Fiennes' performance, which is wonderfully reserved with emotion bubbling just beneath the surface. Justin overhears something that seems to imply one thing, only to learn later that it meant something else. Another point of information that he (and we) had assumed as fact is revealed to be false. And on and on. We get the impression he had not known Tessa very long before she died, maybe a few years. He still had a lot to learn about her, a fact she recognizes when, in flashback, she first asks to accompany him to Africa. "You can learn me," she says. Sadly, he never truly does until she is gone.

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originally posted: 09/02/05 05:02:42
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell gripping good film 4 stars
3/13/16 roberta wiener compelling, gripping,a smart person's film.. Fiennes" acting is amazing and subtle. 5 stars
4/26/12 tan hongtao a movie about a crasy bitch who lost her mind, 1 stars
3/18/09 Chaka Khan I dont understand the rave about this movie, not believable in any way and brutally boring 2 stars
11/09/08 mr.mike The central mystery isn't all that compelling, Fiennes and a satisfying ending compensate 4 stars
5/21/07 action movie fan BORING STORY COMSTANTLY DULL 1 stars
5/15/07 mb Excellent Movie ... useless ending. 4 stars
5/11/07 R.W. Welch A shade overdone, but still intriguing conspiracy flick. B- 4 stars
3/29/07 fools♫gold been-done-before-and-better "drama/action", like Bulletproof Monk, but more boring. 2 stars
2/11/07 Mystic Dark, brooding and will haunt for along time. The story of our times.... 5 stars
11/14/06 Ryan_A Fiennes is fantastic. 4 stars
11/05/06 zaw WTF! This movie is for people who like to complicate their lives! Real life is not!!! 1 stars
11/02/06 Patsyc A good movie. It has a very good storyline. 4 stars
9/01/06 MP Bartley Angry, and the emotion of it creeps up on you. Fiennes is brilliant. 4 stars
8/01/06 Eden Despite the storyline, its a kinda bland film; completely forgetable 2 stars
5/19/06 Simon Doesn't quite have a knockout punch as a moviegoer would like, but its sincerity is legit 4 stars
5/06/06 daveyt enjoyable, didn't mind the time lapse plot, jerky cinematography and slow pace! 4 stars
4/29/06 millersxing A well-intentioned, overbearing snoozer. 2 stars
4/23/06 Phil M. Aficionado In a few days it will blend into a dozen others I've seen, full of incongruous twists 3 stars
3/11/06 Josh Standlee Fact: Ralph Feinnes is an emotionless android. 2 stars
3/07/06 Annie G Interesting overall, but seriously do people think drug companies have this much power? 4 stars
2/27/06 Serious Critic !0 Osrcar noms but still this is ciold war propaganda 4 stars
2/25/06 Indrid Cold A leisurely-paced thriller with more intimate romantic scenes than actual thrills. 4 stars
2/09/06 helen bradley A story that lingers well after leaving the flick, great acting all round and photograohy 5 stars
1/26/06 john bale Timely and disturbing thriller which must raise concern about the ethics of some Companies. 5 stars
1/22/06 Simon Very-very well done. Well-developed characters, unforced social awareness, smart dialogue 5 stars
1/17/06 Agent Sands Intelligent, well-directed film. 4 stars
1/13/06 middle earth characters with soul, but film event driven, who are these people? 4 stars
12/14/05 What's the matter with you people? What a complete waste of time! Weisz and Fiennes should be shot down for this! 1 stars
10/06/05 Taylor Fladgate Can you say "Oscar!"? This film will get at least 5 nods. 5 stars
9/29/05 Olga Reprintseva awakening and beautiful 4 stars
9/17/05 Suzz excellent performances but just your average thriller otherwise 3 stars
9/15/05 Jake I walked into this film expecting a great movie. An hour later, I walked disappointed. 2 stars
9/13/05 susan great 5 stars
9/08/05 Koitus Didn't care for "out of time" sequencing; many "false" leads provided, too... 2 stars
9/05/05 Ionicera great performances and love story 4 stars
9/05/05 Melina remembering the movie, brings tears to my eyes again - definitely worth seeing! 5 stars
9/04/05 Bob Siesholtz This was a horrible movie. It was slow moving and boring. Drug companies are evil. Thanks 1 stars
9/01/05 B.Blackbrain It was like a documentary by Alfred Hitchcock. Best movie I've seen all year. 5 stars
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  31-Aug-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2006



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