Written by Jeffrey Caine
Directed by Fernando Meirelles
Running Time: 1:45
for language, some violent images
and sexual content/nudity.
The Constant Gardener was a dark, dense thriller that moved a little slowly and was somewhat confusing, but standout performances made the movie entertaining.
Justin and Tessa are two very different people. Justin is a straight-laced, follow the rules kind of guy while Tessa is a rebellious activist who wants to change the world. They meet and quickly fall in love and move to Africa for Justin's job. While there, Tessa is murdered and it's up to Justin to put the pieces of her life back together to find out why. What he discovers reaches the highest levels of government and could threaten large multi-national corporations. It could also lead to Justin ending up with the same fate as Tessa. But his love for her will not allow him to stop until he uncovers the mystery behind his wife's tragic demise.
The one thing I really enjoyed about The Constant Gardener was that with all the handheld camera work, I felt like I was part of the film. Everything was in the here and now and I never felt any disconnect from the story. It was raw and full of energy throughout. With Tessa dying within the first few minutes of the film, the first half of the film is told in flashback and we see how they met and how she became involved in what ultimately led to her death. It seems a drug company is testing a new TB drug on unsuspecting patients in Africa, and Tessa finds out that the tests may be causing more harm then good. She makes the mistake of going through diplomatic channels to get results and that's when events start to happen. Justin was kept in the dark the entire time and actually thought his wife might just be cheating on him with another man. When he delves deep into the story himself, his life is immediately put in danger. Whoever killed his wife has a lot to protect and nothing will stand in their way. While there were moments that slowed the movie down, for the most part the story kept you guessing and wanting to learn more. This was definitely edge-of-your-seat material. The biggest problem with the story was that there were so many characters and things happening on, it was hard to keep track of who worked for what company, and what role they played in the whole scenario. Had that aspect been fleshed out a little better, this would have been a truly terrific movie.
As I said in the beginning, the performances, especially by Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, are what helped carry this movie. Weisz has got a truly exotic look, one that can look tremendously beautiful one moment, and ragged the next. Her portrayal of Tessa showed a woman who truly cared about protecting the innocent, even if one of those people was her own husband. You could see the conflict in her face every time she spoke and you knew she was hiding something, the only question was what it was. Fiennes is one of the industries top actors, although his performances are sporadic. Justin was a man in love, but also confused and not sure how to deal with his wife. He wanted her to do what was in her heart, but it was hurting his career. And after a while he wasn't sure what she was doing and it ultimately got her killed. But even though Justin wasn't a strong man, his love for his wife was never ending, and even if it lead to his death, he was going to find out what happened to her. Both performances were outstanding and carried the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed The Constant Gardener. I thought the story was a little confusing and that took away from some of my enjoyment, but the overall scope and look of the movie, combined with fantastic acting made this a top notch thriller.
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