By Philip Ellwood, November 14th 2005
Without a doubt one of the frontrunners for next year‘s Oscars, ‘The Constant Gardener‘ is the film adaptation of the best-selling John Le Carre book of the same name. Billed as an intelligent conspiracy thriller, ‘The Constant Gardener‘ is the latest project by ‘City of God‘ director Fernando Meirelles and sees Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz proving their acting chops.
‘The Constant Gardener‘ tells the story of Justin Quayle, a member of the British High Commission, who is desperately trying to find out the truth behind the murder of his wife Tessa in Africa. Tessa, an outspoken activist, is found dead at the roadside and her travelling companion missing. The murder is labelled a crime of passion but Justin suspects foul play. He uses his position in an attempt to uncover a conspiracy, endangering his life in the process.
On an aesthetic level the film is magnificent. The scenery, direction and cinematography is captivating. Meirelles really does command the highest standards - something which has been evident in all of his works so far. The sweeping landscapes of Africa are breathtaking but Meirelles still manages to capture a very gritty look and atmosphere. You can almost feel the suffering and poverty radiating from the screen.
Ralph Fiennes is reliably solid as Justin Quayle and proves once again that he is possibly one of the greatest male actors of our generation. It is Rachel Weisz however, that steals the film. She really shines when on screen and her portrayal as the desperate, boundary-pushing Tess is both emotive and believable. My heart was with her during the film and I believed in her fight for the greater good. If Weisz doesn‘t score an Oscar nominee for this film I will eat my hat!
On the down side after a fantastic, engaging first hour I found the second hour slow-moving and dull in places. I think part of the problem stemmed from Rachel Weisz featuring very little in the film‘s second half. Ralph Fiennes is left to uncover a conspiracy that holds little surprises and I began to feel the film stopped revealing anything. I expected to be shocked with twists and revelations but this never really happened. Perhaps part of the problem was my expectations when I entered the cinema.
On reflection ‘The Constant Gardener‘ is a great film. It‘s not the masterpiece I was hoping for but it was refreshing to see well-directed, well-acted, thought-provoking slice of adult cinema. I expect the film will be deemed a classic in years to come and maybe when I watch the movie again I may appreciate it in a different way.
Director - Fernando Meirelles
Distributor - UIP
Certificate - 15
UK Release Date - Friday 11th November 2005
Celebrities Worldwide Rating - 7 out of 10