A 2005 political thriller film directed by Fernando Meirelles, based on the 2001 novel by John le Carré.
We open with Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a mild-mannered British diplomat, saying goodbye to his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) at an airfield in Kenya. A few days later Justin's boss tells him Tessa may have been killed.
Cut without warning to Justin and Tessa's first meeting. Justin makes a prepared statement at the UN; Tessa uses the Q&A to go after him, the positions in the speech he read, and British foreign policy. The two of them end up continuing the discussion over drinks, and start a relationship.
In the present, Justin confirms that she has truly been killed, and begins to ask questions about the crime. What at first seems like the result of infidelity blown out of control starts to look like it might be related to Tessa's activism. Meanwhile, more flashbacks show how their relationship developed and fluctuated, and hint at Tessa's efforts to uncover human rights abuses, the extent of which were never completely shared with Justin.
His efforts to retrace his wife's steps and unravel a conspiracy that involves multinational corporations, corrupt local officials, and possibly some of his own superiors takes him around and between Africa and Europe. In the process, he tries to finally understand his wife's life, come to terms with their personal history, and honor her memory. Will the crimes of the powerful be exposed, will he be able to finally connect with Tessa after her death...and will he survive the journey?
The film is beautifully and artfully filmed, and plenty of the Camera Tricks are put in play at some point. But between the Flash Backs and Justin's Dream Sequences/ hallucinations, it takes some thought to keep up with the narrative.
Rachel Weisz won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance.
The film contains examples of:
- Anachronic Order
- The Atoner: Dr. Lorbeer. Justin as well.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Sir Bernard Pellegrin, Head of FCO Africa desk, and one of Justin's bosses. Quite apart from being one of the highest-ranking conspirators, the letter he wrote to Sandy (in response to Tessa's findings) reveals just how unpleasant he really is under his genteel exterior: in particular, he refers to Tessa as "your resident harlot."
- Bury Your Gays: It's mentioned that the reason Blum had to hide his homosexuality is because he would likely have been imprisoned or even murdered had it become known. When he is killed (for other reasons), his body is mutilated in a manner that indicates that his killers knew this and either (a) disfigured him so as to add insult to injury or (b) wanted to make his death look like a homophobic attack.
- Can't Stop the Signal
- Chocolate Baby: Teased - in fact Tessa is just nursing another woman's baby.
- Cool Old Guy: Tim Donohue.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Justin's death is incomprehensibly ruled a suicide, despite, as his friend cites, his body "bearing no less than 8 bullet wounds from three different guns, none of which matched the one he held in his hand."
- Blum also supposedly killed himself out of guilt for killing Tessa—in a manner that would be highly unlikely and utterly impossible for him to do.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Three Bees management, as well as KDH.
- Covers Always Lie: While Justin does obtain a gun, he never brandishes it quite like the Pistol Pose of the poster (the pistol can only be seen in silhouette, but the pose is clearly the same).
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Arnold.
- Death of a Child: Tessa's baby is stillborn.
- A little boy is among the bodies laid out in the morgue when Justin goes to identify Tessa's body.
- Disturbed Doves: A flock of birds takes flight as Justin is gunned down.
- Driven to Suicide: How the conspiracy plans to spin Justin's death.
- Enemy Mine: As a form of revenge against his ex-paymasters, Kenny Curtis supplies Justin with information-including the whereabouts of a mass grave containing the bodies of Wanza and several hundred other dead test subjects.Curtis: "Let's just say that if I'm going to the wall, I want a trophy."
- Enhance Button: A minor example.
- Exact Eavesdropping: "A marriage of convenience that only produces dead children" - well, you can't blame him for misinterpreting that.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: As Justin walks through the morgue to identify Tessa's body, a little boy is among the bodies laid out on other tables.
- Go Out with a Smile: Justin has an INCREDIBLY—almost disturbingly so—peaceful expression just before he's gunned down.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Tessa's mutilated body is not shown, aside from her bloody hand, we get only vague shots of Blum's equally mangled corpse, and the camera cuts away just before Justin is gunned down. We don't even hear it, the filmmakers opting to show a flock of birds taking flight as the gunfire presumably erupts.
- Government Conspiracy
- He Knows Too Much: Or "they", rather. The reason behind Tessa, Arnold, and ultimately Justin's murders.
- How We Got Here
- Inelegant Blubbering: Ham accuses himself of this, especially after Tessa's death.
- Ironic Echo: Tessa tries to convince Justin to help a family home so that they do not have to walk for days, but Justin rejects her, telling her that they cannot help everyone. Tessa replies that it at least does matter for this one family. Later, Justin tries to save a little girl, arguing the same way Tessa did back then, and gets rejected too, having to leave the little girl to her fate.
- Jerkass: Kenny Curtis, head of Three Bees; foul-mouthed, bad-tempered and totally corrupt. Actually has the nerve to call Tessa a bitch-after her death-right to Justin's face.
- Law of Inverse Fertility
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Subverted. While Tessa and Blum are definitely murdered, her murder is made to look as if at his hands, while his is made to look like a homophobic attack rather than an assassination because of their investigation.
- Manly Tears: Justin after Tessa's death.
- Media Scrum: After the letter is read at Justin's funeral.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Played for Drama, and made ambiguous to the audience for a long time.
- No Bisexuals: Justin is convinced that Arnold wasn't having an affair with Tessa when he's told he has a boyfriend.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Bluhm is working for "Medecin Dans Univers", an obvious substitute for Doctors Without Borders.
- Oh, And Tessa Dies
- Posthumous Character: Tessa, Arnold. Technically, Justin as well—his final moments are depicted as flashbacks during his funeral.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Justin gets beaten up as a corny German talk show plays cheerful music in the background.
- Take Up My Sword: If only Justin could figure out what the sword was.
- The Spymaster: Tim Donohue, though he freely admits that the spy game isn't what it used to be. Nonetheless, after Justin goes looking for answers, Tim remains one of his few allies.
- Together in Death: Tessa's spirit comes to comfort Justin just before he's gunned down.
- Unperson: Wanza and the rest who die under the effects of the experimental drug. Every record of their existence is erased.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: We get the sounds but not the sight of Sandy retching upon seeing Tessa's body.
- Your Days Are Numbered: Tim points out that both he and Justin will both be dead by Christmas-Justin due to the hit put out on him, Tim due to cancer. Given that Justin's assassinated some time later and Tim's never seen again after this meeting, it seems he was right.