It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
But why, Justin needs to know, did Tessa receive an e-mail asking her, "What were you and Arnold doing in the Nairobi Hilton Friday night? Does Justin know?"
The murder of Tessa takes place right at the start of "The Constant Gardener," so it is not revealing too much to mention it. The movie is a progress back into her life, and a journey of discovery for Justin, who discovers a woman he never really knew. The flashback structure, told in remembered moments, passages of dialogue, scenes that are interrupted and completed later, is typical of John Le Carre, whose novels resemble chess problems in which one solution is elegant and all of the others take too many moves. It is a style suited to the gifts of the Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, whose great "City of God" (2002) told a story that was composed of countless tributaries that all flowed together into a mighty narrative stream.
The fragmented style is the best way to tell this story, both for the novel and the movie. "The Constant Gardener" is not a logical exercise beginning with mystery and ending at truth, but a circling around an elusive conspiracy. Understand who the players are and how they are willing to compromise themselves, and you can glimpse cruel outlines beneath the public relations facade. As the drug companies pour AIDS drugs into Africa, are they using their programs to mask the testing of other drugs? "No drug company does something for nothing," Le Carre has a character observe.
"The Constant Gardener" may be the angriest story Le Carre has ever told. Certainly his elegant prose and the oblique shorthand of the dialogue shows the writer forcing himself to turn fury into style. His novel involves drug companies who test their products on the poor of the Third World and are willing to accept the deaths that may occur because, after all, those people don't count. Why not? Because no one is there to count them.