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That roiling, starving continent at first seems a backdrop to familiar Le Carré chicanery. Justin has brought his bride Tessa, a fierce do-gooder, to Kenya, where he resumes his job in the embassy and she goes off crusading--to what end, Justin knows not. After her death, he must confront the forces that ended her life and are threatening his. That's when he discovers how genial manners can conceal hearts of darkness.
As Fiennes tends to withhold, director Meirelles likes to probe and prod a subject from a dozen oblique angles. That could have made for a schizophrenic movie, but this time, opposites attract: the actor and the director make a smart pair. The result is a First World story seen through the acute eyes of a Third World auteur--a film of nuance and power, flawlessly acted and an adventure to watch, with the aftertaste of an aspirin laced with cyanide.
Will The Constant Gardener--or any of his other new films--put Fiennes on the A list? We don't know. The English gentleman with subtle quests and quirks isn't a type in Hollywood favor just now. Apparently, he doesn't care. "I love being an actor," he says.
And if the masses don't go for his brand of tortured and aloof, they should consider this inside dish from Weisz: "He loves to dance. He's very free on the dance floor, and he's a great dance partner--because, as with his acting, he knows how to improvise."
We suppose they danced a waltz?
"No, funk and electronica."
Some things you can't tell about Ralph Fiennes just by looking at him. --Reported by Belinda Luscombe/New York