Monday, March 27, 2006

The Constant Gardener (2005)

The Constant Gardener is part romance, part thriller based on the novel of the same name by John Le Carré. Ralph Fiennes plays a British diplomat who is forced to become a man of action in order to discover the truth about the murder of his wife, played by Rachel Weisz, uncovering a deeper conspiracy the more involved he becomes.

This film wasn’t as I expected. I expected to watch a fast-paced thriller full of political intrigue and plot twists. While all this does feature in the film, it takes a good 45 minutes or so to shift gears. The beginning of the film is slow, exploring the character background and motivation. It is not until the later portion of the film that the story telling becomes linear, making it difficult to follow at times.

The cast is superb, both Fiennes and Weisz proving themselves to be two of Britain’s best actors at the moment. The supporting cast is also strong, featuring some familiar faces such as Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite.

Fernando Meirelles, who shot to fame with City of God, proves once again to be a fine director. The stark contrast between bleak, rain-soaked Britain and bright, colourful Africa is visually striking. The flashbacks are handled well, never becoming too confusing.

The film’s main weakness is its handling of its dual identity – on one hand there is a love story and on the other a thriller. There are times when the two stories seem unbalanced, as though there are two films within the living space of one. The film does feel long at certain points, but in the second half the action is engaging enough to keep the viewer in their seat.

The film’s ending succeeds in being both bleak, yet satisfying, as corruption is uncovered but that does not equal a happy ending. Despite being based on fiction, the film’s plot is based enough in the real world to make the viewer stop and think about its content, which in my mind is always a good thing.

The Constant Gardener is an interesting and engaging film, which suffers only slightly from a slow start. The strong lead performances, masterful direction and interesting plot elevate the film to something more than a generic thriller.


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