Wednesday, April 05, 2006

DVD: The Constant Gardener

Genre: Drama/thriller
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston
DVD released: Jan. 10, 2006
Verdict: &&&&

Expect nothing presented on a silver platter in The Constant Gardener, a challenging thriller based on a story by John LeCarré, a familiar name whose spy novels I've never tried. Before her death, Justin Quale (Fiennes) sees clues that his wife, Tessa, is involved in something scandalous she's hiding from him. After her death in Africa, he seeks to learn her secret and discovers a horrifying injustice involving government collusion with corrupt pharmaceutical makers who are taking advantage of a weak population. Anyone who gets in their way tends to turn up dead, and Justin finds himself threatened and even attacked. Everyone's motives and trustworthiness are uncertain. I didn't really buy the opening scenes, in which Tessa and Justin go straight from verbally sparring in a public forum to a stilted tryst. It doesn't take long to get drawn in, however, as the film smoothly shifts between past and present, weaving the back-story of Tessa's idealistic crusade into Justin's dangerous quest for the truth. The look of the movie is gritty yet beautiful thanks to the Kenyan setting. The themes of deception in marriage and medical abuse are strong, but I can see why this didn't make the shortlist for best picture: Smart and intriguing as it is, it certainly doesn't tug at the heart in the way some of the nominees do. // DVD notes // A decent assortment of deleted scenes. // Second-guessing Oscar // Nothing against Weisz, but her performance doesn't say "Oscar" to me. And, backtracking to Crash, how did its moving music not get nominated? But what do I know. I would have nominated Ian McDiarmid for best supporting actor for Revenge of the Sith.

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