Ralph Fiennes has had an unexpectedly uneven career. He followed up his breakout performance in Schindler’s List with Quiz Show (alright, I can see that) and then with Strange Days (what the…). Since then he’s bounced between prestige projects and, well, The Avengers. That’s not pretty.

The early buzz on The Constant Gardener, an adaptation of a novel by spy master John Le Carre, is that this is Fiennes back in form. He plays the mild-mannered husband of a third-world activist played by Rachel Weisz. After finding his wife dead, Fiennes’ character Justin Quayle decides to investigate her background and find the truth behind the life she never told him about.

The Poster

Very striking visually and very much designed to appeal to the same crowd as The English Patient. The poster uses a grand total of three images of Fiennes in just one image. At the top we see him with Weisz in what really looks like an awkwardly intimate moment. Below that Fiennes looks much different – sweaty and disheveled. At the very bottom there’s just a silhouette of a man with a gun. While it’s not obviously Fiennes I still think that’s a safe assumption to make.

It’s clear just from the poster that this movie is being positioned as a comeback of sorts for Fiennes. While he’s never really been missing his hit and miss career choices have left him off the A-list of actors, even to the point of him having to make a romantic comedy with Jennifer Lopez. That has to be a low-point.

The Trailer

All the trailers available for this flick follow the same basic pattern. They introduce us to Fiennes and Weisz under what for them are ordinary circumstances. As a humanitarian aid worker Weisz has been dispatched to yet another remote locale and Fiennes comes with her. There he confronts her about not only her work but rumors of her cheating on him. After she is killed he begins a one man investigation into her death as well as some sort of life she was keeping secret from him.

My one concern with the trailers is the amount of “action” in them. Le Carre, in my experience, is more of an espionage writer than an action writer so I’m concerned that either the movie has added explosive sequences to spice things up a bit or that the few scenes of this nature are being over-emphasized. Either one could lead to a bit of a misunderstanding but I know that they’re being shown to present the movie as more typical summer fare. Don’t want to actually have to think about movies during the summer, do we?

The Website

This is a striking website not so much for the editorial content but more for what appears in the transitions between the sections. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.

The content of the site is mostly what we’ve come to expect, though done a bit more nicely than most in my opinion. “The Organization” contains the cast and crew biographies, which are pretty complete. “Surveillance” is the home of 18 still photos, divided up into three galleries. Four different trailers can be found in “Evidence”. The “Disclosure” section is a little odd in that it contains brief snippets of different forms of communication, an email, an instant-message and so on. They all appear and then seem to cut off in mid-stream and contain what looks to be plot information. As far as I could tell that’s all there is. This isn’t a game where you have to click on something to delve further into the message and discover what’s really being said. That’s kind of disappointing as that would have been at least fairly interesting. As it is we’re left with the knowledge that someone killed the communication between two people.

The best content portion of the site is “The Motive”, which contains a plot synopsis and production notes. There are ten tabs worth of information covering all portions of the film’s life, from director Fernando Meirelles deciding to take on the project while shooting City of God to post-production work. If you need to know what happened to bring the movie to the screen you’ll probably find it here.

What really sticks out about the website is the use of what is almost full-screen video to transition between sections. Most sites will use some sort of Flash or other animation to bridge the gap while you navigate but in this case you get about five to ten seconds of foll-motion film footage. It shows in stark detail that the web designer behind this site had broadband internet users firmly in mind. No dial-up connection would be able to handle the amount of video they are pushing down the pipe. As broadband continues to proliferate and gain widespread adoption I would expect to see more sites being geared toward this group. The problem is that they have then excluded those still on dial-up systems. I would have loved to have seen a less video-intensive alternate site for those without access to the speedy broadband.

Overall

This is a solid campaign for a movie for adults. As I said, I’m worried that some elements – particularly the trailer – over-emphasize the action at the expense of the story, but that’s a minor qualm. The poster is pretty great and the website definitely shows a move forward in the adoption of a full multi-media approach to movie web design. All in all I give this one high marks and hope the movie itself succeeds as well as the campaign.

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