Based on a novel by John Le Carré, The Constant Gardener is more of a political message delivery system than a movie. It is also extremely well made. And unlike, say, The Interpreter—the recent Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn flick which paired Hollywood glamour with trite social parables, and ended up sending out muddled messages—this new film knows how to put its craftsmanship to the service of its message, which is fierce and focused throughout. Many political thrillers use the travails of the so-called Third World as an excuse to show glamorous people doing exciting things, but The Constant Gardener comes at it the other way 'round. Here, the mysteries and conspiracies take us deeper into an African situation which, the film assures us, reflects the reality on the ground.

Ralph Fiennes plays a British diplomat in Nairobi, while Rachel Weisz plays his political activist wife

Ralph Fiennes plays a British diplomat in Nairobi, while Rachel Weisz plays his political activist wife

Given the film's broader agenda—its producers have already set up a charity to benefit the people of Kenya—it may seem churlish to complain about things like, oh, the script. But this is a fictitious story, not a documentary, and the script is the one place where the movie's craftsmanship suffers. Near the beginning, Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a diplomat with the British High Commission in Nairobi, is watering his plants when he is told that his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz), a passionate political activist, has died in what the authorities are saying might have been a bandit raid, but might also have been a crime of passion committed by a possible lover. The story then moves forward and backward in time, as Justin investigates the circumstances of Tessa's death and relives the key moments in their relationship—and while it's a pleasure to watch these actors work together, it's a little difficult to see what their characters ...

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The Constant Gardener
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
 
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Mpaa Rating
R (for language, some violent images and sexual content/nudity)
Genre
Directed By
Fernando Meirelles
Run Time
2 hours 9 minutes
Cast
Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston
Theatre Release
August 31, 2005 by Focus Features
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