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The Constant Gardener

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A-
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A/B-

Directed by: Fernando Meirelles
Written by: Jeffrey Caine
Based on the book by: John le Carre
Produced by: Simon Channing-Williams
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston, Hubert Kounde, Bill Nighy, Donald Sumpter, Gerald McSorly
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

Many of the films that received major Oscar nominations recently have all had quite a lot of controversy on them. Brokeback Mountain, the sure-fire Best Picture winner has been attacked by anti-gay right groups for obvious reasons. Another Best Picture nominee, Steven Spielberg's Munich has been under attack by Israel for showing the Palestinian side of the 1972 Olympic bombing story. Speaking of which, the Palestinian nominee for Best Foreign Film, Paradise Now has been critised for making suicide bombers appear sympethetic. However, it is interesting to note that the pharmesutical industry has not become angry at the negative potrayal of them in The Constant Gardener, which is directed by City of God Oscar nominee from a couple of years back, Fernando Meirelles.

When activist Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) and her doctor friend, Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Kounde) are shot and killed on an expedition in Kenya, her husband, Justin (Ralph Fiennes) becomes an investigator to try and figure out why she was murdered. While searching for the answers, he finds some terrible news about the pharmacy industries and what they were doing in Kenya. That is only half of the film. The other half, which is told in flashbacks, focuses on how Justin and Tessa met and how they became lovers. The flashbacks also chronicle their meetings with various important as well as Tessa possibly cheating on her husband.

Fernando Meirelles suprised everyone two years ago, when he was nominated for City of God. He should have been nominated again for this film, because the direction is also exceptional and fast-paced. That is also in part to the brilliant award-worthy cinematography by Cesar Charlone (who also worked on City of God). The lead performances are also great and that Ralph Fiennes is getting no awards attention at all is rather upsetting. Rachel Weisz is also great and deserved the nominations she has gotten (although, I don't know why she is in the running for supporting). Special mention should also go to Jeffrey Caine's screenplay. The Constant Gardener is filmed, not surprisingly, in the same style as City of God, so the grainy look is intentional. In none grainy scenes, the video is excellent and you can easily see the many parts of Ralph Fiennes's face. The audio is also great with the African chants booming through the sound system very well. The video and audio get an "A" grade each.

If this becomes a huge hit on video or wins big at the Academy Awards, then I'm expecting a special edition DVD soon, because there are not that many extras on this disc. The disc starts off with five deleted scenes that aren't very interesting so I'm happy that they were deleted from the film, but the last scene is rather amusing and educational. Three featurettes then follow which concentrate on the filming in Kenya, writer John le Carre and the usual promotional featurette. They contain a lot of chatting with Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Fernando Meirelles, John le Carre and the film's producer Simon Channing-Williams. Sometimes, they repeat themselves but the people still provide great information, especially Meireilles. The DVD also opens up with an advertisement for Lexus. I award the extras a "B-" grade.

The Constant Gardener is a great film, that while slow at some points is still a film that should be seen and people should buy it, but think about whether it is their film or whether to wait for a special edition.

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