Monday, January 09, 2006

The Constant Gardener

This just in..... Pharmaceutical companies are greedy.

I know that statement isn't exactly newsworthy. But this movie would have one believe that it's the most profound, and groundbreaking conspiracy that mankind has ever uncovered.

Fernando Merirelles follows up his amazing City of God in this solidly directed and acted film based on a novel by John Le Carre, unfortunately the work is burdened by a mediocre script and story.

Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) finds out that his newly married wife (Rachel Weisz) has been murdered while practicing medicine in Kenya. While re-living their short lived marriage he puts clues together to try and uncover the reason for her murder. He soon realizes that the reasons for her death are bigger than he could ever imagine.

The movie is a change of pace for Ralph Fiennes who's lately been playing serial killers, lunatics, and most recently the evil Voldemort in the last Harry Potter movie. It's a refreshing change of pace as he plays a mild mannered British diplomat who's swept off his feet by the enchanting Rachel Weisz. The strongest elements of the movie involve his touching memories of his wife. Merrielles creates a moving and tragic atmosphere for the love story. Weisz and Fiennes do a nice job creating a believable, charming, chemistry. Danny Huston and Bill Nighy also turn in creepy supporting performances. Unfortunately, for me the movie begins to fall apart when the movie shifts into a mystery thriller.

The movie was sold as a global thriller, and the connotation is that there is this incredibly vast, and intricate conspiracy that has to be uncovered. But the movie is actually pretty straight forward. Lots of times the audience is left waiting for the main characters to uncover answers that are already pretty clear to us.

Also a large problem with the story is that it's not very logical. I'm not referring to the concept that Pharmaceutical companies are corrupt, cause they obviously are. It's that these large corporations would feel so threatened by the characters in the movie. It's pretty absurd to believe that Billion Dollar corporations would resort to murdering people, like a village doctor, or lowly diplomat, when all they really have to do is discredit them. Especially a character like the one played by Rachel Weisz, who is presented early on as pretty unstable. There is also the plot point that the companies would resort to secret testing and covering up of victims deaths. It's just not realistic, Pharmaceutical corporations don't need to be secretive and hide their mistakes. They have the built in excuse that what they do, however dangerous, is done in the interest of research and development. There are also plenty of desperate sickly people out there who are willing to be test subjects for a chance at good health. There's no need to use unwilling, unknowing test subjects. And the idea that they would secretly bury victims in order to hide the truth just isn't plausible. In an age of spies and technology the idea that rival corporations wouldn't find out about such damaging information, especially when they have so much to gain from such information is just not realistic.

The conspiracy is obviously just a slick device for the author to tell a story. It just doesn't hold up under closer consideration.

The movie does have some strong points, mostly involving Merrielles direction.The movie benefits from him bringing a third world perspective to the film, and he does do a good job of setting up a paranoid environment. Lots of the images, especially the stuff done in Kenya is stunning to witness. The movie is also structured in an interesting way, switching back and forth between tragic love story, and mystery thriller. Merrielles almost carries it off but the material in the end fails him.

One even gets the sense that while watching the movie that he was a hired gun that is over qualified for the material. It's not surprising that Mike Newell, who turned it down for Harry Potter, was originally slated to direct. The story doesn't feel like something close to Merrielles heart. But he does a nice, solid job, and I think a lot of the buzz surrounding the film is a direct result of his involvement.

Although I found the movie disappointing, I don't think it diminishes my view of Merrielles abilities, and I'm looking forward to more of his work.

Hopefully something closer to his heart.


Lons said...

Yawn...This was one of several IMPORTANT '05 dramas that just didn't do it for me at all. It was a preachy, shrill year for films, which only makes the sleek, stylish, and thoughtful "Munich" all the more powerful in comparison.

It was more entertaining than "Syriana," though...Ugh...

NotCarrie said...

I can't wait to see this. I didn't read your review but I'll be back after I see it! love Ralph Fiennes!