Fernando Meirelles, director of the acclaimed City of God (Cidade de Deus) has delivered a powerful and touching thriller sourced from veteran le Carré, an author arguably past his peak.
Ralph Fiennes is brilliant, and it’s great when he has an opportunity to stretch his acting wings outside of bad guy roles (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Red Dragon). His portrayal of British High Commission employee Justin Quayle is superbly flawed and humble, yet at the same time undoubtedly a hero. It’s wonderful to witness such an imperfect lead in a film like this, particularly as we’re usually only provided with a chiselled jaw and altruistic motives. Rachel Weisz (Constantine) is superb also, and it looked as if she was actually pregnant during filming, otherwise there were some damn tricky special effects going on. Pete Postlethwaite and Danny Huston provide similarly perfect performances in lesser roles, the latter almost unrecognisable from his part in The Proposition.
The cinematography is stunning, with a grainy, handheld documentary style that adds wonderfully to the realism and contemporary nature of the film. There’s something to be said for this ever-increasing technique, which seems to counter the work of such artistic directors as Cristophe Gans or Sally Potter. It’s not actually realism as such, however, but an exaggeration – we get a washed out, overexposed Kenya, then a dull, monochromatic England.
The plot is a fairly standard thriller, although there are moments that don’t conform to typical examples of the genre. As with many of le Carré’s adaptations, the plot seems fairly realistic, and I had no problems suspending disbelief. Coupled with Meirelles’ genuine portrayal of Kenya (not that I’ve ever been there), The Constant Gardener makes for a very convincing feature.Rating: