In a remote area of Northern Kenya, passionate human rights activist Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) is found brutally murdered. Her travelling companion, a local doctor, appears to have fled the scene, and the evidence points to a crime of passion. Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston), Sir Bernard Pellegrin (Bill Nighy) and the other members of the British High Commission assume that Tessa's husband, their mild-mannered and unambitious colleague Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) will leave any investigation of the matter in their hands. But haunted by remorse and stung by rumours of Tessa's infidelities, he begins to look in to what took her to the region where she was killed. What he discovers is a trail of conspiracy and corporate greed which has claimed innocent lives and will threaten his own.
At the heart of The Constant Gardener is a series of contrasts, encapsulated in cinematographer César Charlone's strikingly beautiful images - vivid red hues for the vibrancy of Kenya, chilly blues and greys for London. The film's non-linear structure moves freely between times and places, constructing the retrospective love story between Justin and Tessa with tenderness and a palpable sense of intimacy, thanks to the very fine performances of Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. The supporting cast are strong too, including the ever impressive Bill Nighy as the suavely insidious Pellegrin. Topical and socially relevant, The Constant Gardener is not just the most original adaptation of a Le Carré novel we've seen, it's a visionary piece of film-making in its own right.
Murrow made a name for himself early in his career with a series of rooftop broadcasts from London during the Blitz. After the war he and his team of reporters moved into television, with their CBS weekly show See it Now produced by Murrow and Fred Friendly. In 1954, at a time when many Americans were fearful of speaking their minds, Murrow took on Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in a now legendary broadcast. McCarthy responded by accusing Murrow of being a communist.
To the film's great credit, Murrow is portrayed less as a heroic figure than as a journalist of integrity and courage trying to do his job and keep his programme ratings up whilst airing his concerns about the government's activities. Clooney's approach to film-making here is as democratic as the subject deserves, favouring group compositions and fluid camerawork, and whilst David Strathairn gives an outstanding performance as Murrow, he's amidst a strong ensemble which includes Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr, Patricia Clarkson and Jeff Daniels (Clooney takes the part of Fred Friendly, and films himself with a complete lack of vanity). With its expressive black and white cinematography, Good Night, and Good Luck. expertly captures the climate of cold war paranoia in all its grey conformity, and the monotone palette smooths the inclusion of archive footage of McCarthy himself. The film's theme of the news media's responsibility to speak the truth to and about the powers of the day is not so much timely as timeless, and all credit to Clooney for the cinematic boldness he brings to it.
Gala Films and Special Screenings
Film on the Square
New British Cinema
The (almost) complete programme for the 2005 LFF.
list by Max the Movie Guy