Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 242: The Constant Gardener (2005) - Rank 4.5/5


I recall picking this up at a flea market for three bucks...Jesus, has it been three years? I've pulled the film off of my shelf dozens of times, looked at it and returned it to its place, only to choose "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." Why/ Apart from the fact that the latter film is a Dante-fueled, character actor orgy, I suppose I haven't got a reason. Pity, because I regret not sitting down and enjoying this film earlier, because it's an amazing work of art.

Fernando Meirelles takes the tired "corporate cover-up thriller" genre and injects new life into it, very much the way that "Michael Clayton" did. But while the George Clooney vehicle selected a "charitable" agricultural corporation as its target, the medicine industry and its "good natured" intentions are the focus of this intense drama. Ralph Fiennes excels as Justin Quayle, a British ambassador to Africa, who is bound and determined to discover why his wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz in her Oscar-winning role) was brutally murdered. His is not an easy quest though, for discovery of an answer will inevitable seal his fate as well.

Meirelles creates a wonderful cinematic juxtaposition with the film. While Africa is often depicted as a realm of bloodthirsty beasts (be they human or not) and civil unrest, the real threat here is "civilized man" - an imperialist creature concerned only with personal gain on the stock market, not with the risk to countless, innocent human lives. It's a harsh reality to tackle as a subject, and a far crueler realization that Justin Quayle must come to terms with, but all of this is sewn up in a moving and perfect manner. Not as moving as Kathleen Freeman drinking cooking sherry and fighting gremlin puppets, but damn close.

Watch the Trailer

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