Note: May contain a few minor spoilers, but this should not detract from your viewing enjoyment. I believe these were revealed in the original movie trailer anyway.
The Constant Gardener is part mystery, part current events, part social agenda. The opening sequence is pretty good. It shows flashbacks of Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, how they met and got married, how Fiennes job as a diplomat got them assigned to the British consulate in Africa, and how distant they can be to one another, yet maintain that level of respect.
Weisz is extremely dedicated to social work and is determined to do as much as she can to help the poor and suffering people in the region they are in. Sometimes it is as if she is merely using her husband to further her own social agenda. The movie skips ahead occasionally and shows us glimpses of the present. Rachel Weisz' character is found raped, murdered, and mutilated. The scene at the morgue where Fiennes identifies his wife's mutilated body is quite shocking as we are jolted with the horror and reality of death. The question is, who were the perpetrator(s), was it random bandit violence or did someone order the hit? This is where the actual movie starts as Fiennes unravels the circumstances behind his wife's death.
The fact that Weisz hasn't been telling her husband what her true motives and which activities she has been involved in the past few months make the investigation more difficult. We are left with plenty of scenes that illustrate just how difficult life is in Africa. There is poverty, corruption, hunger, thuggery and all sorts of negative aspects. There are also the aid workers who dedicate their lives to helping out the people.
Feinnes and Weisz make a weird couple. They are said to be in love with each other, yet they appear to be very distant to each other emotionally. I also find that Rachel Weisz' character in the movie has a lack of respect for her husband. She never tells him what she's doing, seems to be always at odds with anything he does, and even berates him in one scene for using pesticide in their garden. Feinnes is a saint, a martyr husband who has no idea what his wife is doing and sometimes doesn't seem to care. Due to this, I find the final events of the movie extremely hard to believe and unrealistic, given the nature of the couple.
This movie is well made and manages to entertain despite the grim subject matter. But I think it is limited by the plot of the original novel. One thing I didn't like was that it felt like it had a social agenda. For instance, all the good guys as well as all the bad guys were westerners (British). It felt like the African people were pawns easily manipulated by the big bad corporations, and that the west was responsible for their hardships when the fact is, it is the corrupt governments and officials that is mostly to blame for abusing and terrorizing their own people. It was this buildup of the gradual condascending attitude that made me dislike this movie. And by the way I didn't like the ending, not because it was bad but because it was dumb.
Don't get me wrong, this movie is well made. But I hated the message and the way it portrayed the victims in the story as powerless and unable to fight back. This may be the current reality but when I watch movies such as this that have an obvious social agenda, I want some solutions rather than just being given more problems.
Rating: 2/5 * *
Well made but misguided.