In his first mainstream Hollywood feature film, “The Constant Gardener,” Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles whips up a hurricane of revelation into international corruption involving Third World countries. It makes one wonder whether real indictments will result.
Making cinematically comprehensible John Le Carre’s complex plotting is Meirelles’ major obstacle. However, those who hang in throughout the intricate flashbacks and crosscuts will be as horrified as is lead character, British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), to find that multinational pharmaceutical companies are using Third World natives as guinea pigs to test new drugs.
Following in the footsteps of Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca” or Don Cheadle in “Hotel Rowanda,” Fiennes plays the central character in the eye of the storm who avoids involvement until his conscience compels him into action. A member of Her Majesty’s High Command in Nairobi, Quayle is determined to keep his blinders on to all but his flower garden.
Then, into his life comes a pretty powerhouse of activism named Tessa (Rachel Weisz). After interrupting an ineffectual speech by Quayle, Tessa lures the diplomat to bed and soon into marriage.
While he keeps his eyes closed to her intrigues, he is shocked to learn that Tessa has been murdered in a remote part of Kenya. His stiff-upper lip begins to weaken when he views her burned and mutilated body, although he leaves the vomiting to his associate, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston).
As he sees the cover-up coming, Quayle feels his love for Tessa overwhelming him. It leads him on an odyssey from the slums of sub-Sahara Africa to the top levels of government and corporate power.
Director of the acclaimed “City of God,” Meirelles gives Le Carre’s novel a distinctly Third World perspective, which pumps up its political potency. The message is that drug giants experiment with men, women and children of the Third World because if the impoverished die, they won’t be missed.
Don’t miss “The Constant Gardner.” It’s a movie with something to say that must be said.