The Constant Gardener
7 out of 10
8 out of 10
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Ralph Fiennes as Justin Quayle
Rachel Weisz as Tessa Quayle
Hubert Koundé as Arnold Bluhm
Bill Nighy as Sir Bernard Pelegrin
Danny Huston as Sandy Woodrow
Pete Postlethwaite as Marcus Lorbeer
Richard McCabe as Arthur Hammond
Gerard McSorley as Sir Kenneth Curtiss
Daniele Harford as Miriam
John Keogh as Immigration Offical
Donald Sumpter as Tim Donohue
Archie Panjabi as Ghita Pearson
Eva Plackner as Crossing Guard
Anneke Kim Sarnau as Birgit
Jason Thornton as Thomas
Extended Scene: Haruma - Play in Kibera
Embracing Africa: Filming in Kenya
John Le Carre: From Page to the Screen
Anatomy of a Global Thriller: Behind the Scenes of The Constant Gardener
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 2 Hours 9 Minutes
The following text is from the DVD cover:
"Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) and Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) give electrifying performances in this gripping romantic thriller from the director of City of God. A diplomat on the hunt for his wife's murderer uncovers a treacherous conspiracy that will destroy thousands of innocent people – unless he can reveal its sinister roots. From the bestselling novel by John le Carré comes this edge-of-your-seat story of murder, romance and revenge that critics are calling "a hair-raising thriller with an unforgettable finale" (Karen Durbin, Elle)."
The Constant Gardener is rated R for language, some violent images, and sexual content/nudity.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Constant Gardner. Before watching the film, I had no idea what it was about. I certainly didn't know it was originally a thriller novel from John Le Carre. But upon viewing I found it to be exciting, engaging, beautiful, and heart wrenching.
I enjoyed director Fernando Meirelles previous film City of God. In both films the Brazilian director has shown a knack for shooting in slums and third world countries. He's able to look past the dirty exteriors and show the human characters underneath. He makes you care about the characters you meet in short order. He also uses the Kenyan setting to great extent. From the urban shanty towns to the African wilderness, Meirelles makes everything look bright, beautiful, dirty, and alive. By contrast the portions of the film shown in London seem downright dreary in comparison (especially thanks to creative lighting).
The Constant Gardner puts you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The first few minutes of the film show Rachel Weisz as Tessa Quayle brutally murdered. Despite knowing how everything ends, the series of flashbacks that follow pull you in and make you wonder how she got in the trouble she was in. They also make her character come alive and her relationship with Ralph Fiennes as Justin Quayle seem very real. By the time Justin starts investigating her murder, you are fully on board with him because you care about their characters. You're not only sympathetic to Tessa's character, but her cause as well. As Justin conducts his investigation, the film quickly turns into an international spy thriller that takes you from the streets of London to Berlin to the Sudan. In fact, this seems like a very realistic spy thriller as our hero deals with passport problems, getting beaten up by thugs, and dealing with bureaucracy and cover ups. Justin Quayle is no James Bond.
The acting in The Constant Gardener is superb. Ralph Fiennes shows a lot of range as Justin Quayle. We see him as a quiet diplomat, an introverted gardener, an expectant father, and finally a grieving husband. The role demands a lot from him and he delivers. The same goes for Rachel Weisz as Tessa Quayle. She's an outspoken activist who will do anything for her cause, but she soon stumbles into true love with Justin. Their relationship seems genuine in the film as well as their passion for helping the African poor. The rest of the supporting cast is also excellent. Pete Postlethwaite has a notable cameo as Marcus Lorbeer, one of the pharmaceutical company doctors. He's barely in the film, but he does leave an impact.
Besides the great story, cinematography, and acting, The Constant Gardner has a good soundtrack. It's a mix of orchestral score and African music. The combination perfectly sets the mood for the movie.
So why didn't I rate this film higher? The movie does end on a bit of a downer. The characters go through a lot of highs and lows that aren't always enjoyable to watch. It's enough to rate it a little lower, but it's still a good film.
You'll find the following bonus features included on the DVD:
Deleted Scenes – The deleted scenes aren't essential to the story, but they are significant. One shows Justin going to Canada to talk to one of the researchers working for the pharmaceutical company. She is played, I believe, by Pernilla August (Anakin Skywalker's mommy). Another scene shows some of the British diplomats in Kenya gossiping about the relationship between Tessa and Arnold, the African doctor. Another deleted scene shows one of the pharmaceutical executives being hung out to dry by the company. That explains more of why he turns on him. Finally, there's an extended scene of one of the African men riding his bicycle from the slums to the rich portion of the city. It highlights dramatic economic differences in Kenya, but it runs excessively long.
Extended Scene: Haruma - Play in Kibera – This is the full version of the AIDS play briefly seen in the film. It's not only an interesting form of art, but a way of communicating AIDS awareness to poverty stricken Kenyans.
Embracing Africa: Filming in Kenya – The cast and crew discuss filming in Kenya. They talk about the people, the environments, and the techniques for getting footage. I found it interesting that the British diplomats in Kenya went out of their way to help get the movie made there despite being unhappy with the subject matter.
John Le Carre: From Page to the Screen – The author of the novel talks about his book being turned into a film. He also discusses how he originally came up with the concept and how the film compares with what he wrote.
Anatomy of a Global Thriller: Behind the Scenes of The Constant Gardener – This is your standard "making of" video. It has your standard interviews with the cast and crew as well as behind the scenes footage. Unfortunately a good portion of the video simply recaps the film that you've already watched.
The Bottom Line:
If you like international spy thrillers, murder mysteries, or films set in African, then I think you'll find The Constant Gardner well worth checking out. Fans of Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz will definitely want to add this DVD to their collections.