Hard-hitting political thriller based on the novel by John Le Carre, and the first English-speaking feature from director Fernando Meirelles. When political activist Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz, in an Oscar-winning performance) is found brutally murdered in Kenya, her widowed husband, unassuming minor diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), becomes increasingly belligerent in his attempt to solve the mystery of her death, to the surprise of his British High Commission colleagues. Haunted by remorse and by insidious rumours of his wife's infidelities, Quayle uses his access to diplomatic secrets to unearth a vast and dangerous conspiracy about the methods of big pharmaceutical companies and the exploitation of the Third World by the West, at the same time as he discovers more about the beautiful young wife he never really knew.
The Constant Gardener
is the kind of thriller that hasn't been seen since the 1970s: Smart, politically complex, cinematically adventurous, genuinely thrilling and even heartbreaking. Mild diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes, The English Patient
, Schindler's List
) has a loose cannon of a wife named Tessa (Rachel Weisz, The Shape of Things
, The Mummy
), who's digging into the dirty doings of a major pharmaceutical company in Kenya. Her brutal murder forces Justin to continue her investigation down some deadly avenues.
This simple plot description doesn't capture the rich texture and slippery, sinuous movement of The Constant Gardener, superbly directed by Fernando Meirelles (Oscar-nominated for his first film, City of God). Shifting back and forth in time, the movie skillfully captures the engaging romance between Justin and Tessa (Fiennes shows considerably more chemistry with Weisz than he had with Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan) and builds a vivid, gripping, and all-too-justified paranoia. And on top of it all, the movie is beautiful, due to both its incredible shots of the African landscape (which at times is haunting and unearthly) and the gorgeous cinematography. Featuring an all-around excellent cast, including Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father), and Danny Huston (Silver City).--Bret Fetzer