|The Manchurian Candidate
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- A new incarnation that works
Manchurian Candidate is closer to the original, at least in spirit, than you may expect -- even though it's not the exact movie, it hardly could have been. The relevance of the original to today's events counts little to an audience with little sense of history, and that has a hard time drawing meaning from any social context out of its experience. One glimpse of black and white films stock, men in felt brim hats, and cinematic conventions from an earlier era, and most teenyboppers under the age of thirty grab for the remote. Since they will only sit through a first run, it is good that they have one. Fortunately, the update stands on its own.
The new is less dialog-driven, which tends to make it less literate. But this film runs more on mood than on dialog, and the moods created by Jonathon Demme's just-barely-odd framing and pacing can provoke discomfort on a subliminal level. It is not cozy, and is laid out with less detailed explanation. The resulting sense of uncertainty may be part of why the film is not so universally appreciated.
The remake does solve some of the problems of the first. Gone are the swarthy, vaguely foreign-looking actors standing in for Russians and Chinese agents. Gone are the poorly choreographed ju-jitsu moves that might provoke giggles in a present day audience, used to world-class martial artists on screen, and the multi-racial world commonly reflected on film now, vs the early 1960's.
The new film retains the acting strengths of the original. Every performance is fine. Liev Schrieber's work is worthy of Laurence Harvey's original, a gut kicking performance, though Harvey still holds the edge. Washington's craft is more than a match for Sinatra's unevenly inspired work. (One of the wonders of the first is realizing that Sinatra -could- act, that he did things with rhythm and cadence because those were his only tools, and it worked. He was no method actor, but he very much had something going on.) Streep's scenery chewing is, frankly, perfect. Because unfortunately, really disgusting people actually do exist, and in positions of power. And unlike an actor's performance, criticism of real public figures whose behavior is over-the-top seems completely irrelevant. Seen or heard any Fox commentators recently? Streep's Senator Shaw may well be over-the-top, but the only thing that distinguishes her from the real thing is that she is only play-acting.
Make no mistake, both original and remake are thrillers in the paranoid vein, and the overly literal person will likely say of either, "preposterous" -- despite the original being a classic. But literal truth is not what filmmaking ought to be about, and such criticisms fail to register with me.
So is this as excellent a film as the original, adjusting for the times in which each was made? Not quite, but it is a good film. It hits in the right places, horrifies us with an incredibly cynical vision of what our nation is becoming, and yet it is offset by the thinnest sliver of a wild, earnest Patriotism....more info
- I have only SIX WORDS for this pitiful, woeful "remake" of a classic Frankenheimer flick
And what are those words?
Why, simply put they are:
"DENZEL WASHINGTON IS NO FRANK SINATRA"
Any questions? No, I didn't think so...more info
- If it HAD to be made, surprisingly worthy.
I am generally against remaking old classic movies. However, there are some that have worked for me; KING KONG, THE FLY, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, even the current WAR OF THE WORLDS. The reason primarily is that they were genuinely REMADE with the current times.
CANDIDATE retains the basic premise of mind conditioning and Raymond Shaw's rather twisted relationship with his mother. The film starts in 1991 Iraq and follows through to the post-terrorism paranoia of today. There are many other changes in the story as compared to the original film, which, like it or not, is what remaking a movie is all about. If not, you end up with an inferior carbon copy of an original, like Gus Van Sant's PSYCHO (what the hell was that idiot smoking when he came up with that idea???)....more info
- Ultimately unsatisfying
A conspiracy theory / political intrigue film set in 2004 about a decorated US army lieutenant Ben Marco (played by Denzel Washington) who served in the Gulf War in Iraq in 1991 and begins to have strange dreams of him and the men that were in his unit in Iraq being experimented on by scientists and also of events in Iraq that didn't happen, dreams that conflict with his memories of events. Marco passes it off as the effects of Gulf War syndrome (which he has been diagnosed as suffering from) but when another soldier from his unit contacts him because he has been having strange dreams about experiences in Iraq, dreams that are remarkably similar to his own he begins to question his memories from Iraq. Marco eventually discovers that someone experimented on him and his men back in Iraq in 1991 and then removed the memories of that experimentation, giving them false memories in their place. Marco begins a journey to find out what was done to him and his men in Iraq and why; a journey that will lead him to another man who served under him in Iraq - and who was also experimented on - who went on to become a US senator and may soon become US vice-president; a journey that will eventually uncover the mother of all conspiracies, a conspiracy which Marco has been picked to play a key role in, whether he likes it or not.
Comments: Despite an intriguing conspiracy (which I won't reveal to ruin the film for anyone who is yet to watch the film) I felt that this film ultimately failed because it didn't deliver a significant enough pay-off by the end of the film which was especially annoying because the film was over two hours long (although it has to be said that the film didn't drag on). This is a real shame, as I have a lot of respect for Denzel Washington. If the ending had delivered, what a film this might have been. For a more satisfying conspiracy theory film, watch `Enemy of the State' starring Will Smith.
Like the original, complicated requiring close attention to follow. Some slow parts, boffo ending worth the effort. Not for casual viewing....more info
- An inferior remake
This movie ranks with the new "Planet of the Apes" as one of the worst remakes of a classic ever made. The original Manchurian Candidate was tightly plotted, perfectly acted, and socially relevant. Its plot was rich and layered, and above all subtle.
This new film loses it all in favor of pastiche. The basic plot, that of a platoon being brainwashed into believing they were saved by the most hated member of their squad, is all that survives. Raymond Shaw is changed from a crooked politician's son to the politician himself, and the transition is not successful on any level. The backstory involving Senator Jordan and his daughter Joslyn is all but absent, rendering one of the most powerful scenes of the original rather tepid. With Shaw now as the candidate for vice presidency, his hatred of his mother is largely superfluous to the plot and so is barely noticeable. Also, Major Marco's role reversal at the end is limp and his turning-the-tables cannot be explained as Shaw's was in the original. The big-business conglomerate as brainwashers does not work. Last but not least, the Queen of Hearts trick is gone, its replacement infinitely less intriguing.
What does it leave? It leaves a simple if suspenseful tale of brainwashing. Meryl Streep is effective as the mother but cannot match Angela Lansbery (in her defense, Streep's role is far less three dimensional than Lansbery's, and her character is simply not as malevolent).
Not worth it. Seek out the original, one of the greatest films ever made, and cast this to the dustbin of cinema history....more info
- A Missed Opportunity...
1962's "The Manchurian Candidate" was an outstanding classic of an earlier era of movies, crisply shot in black and white and featuring a talented cast and a tightly wound, haunting plot firmly embedded in the tensions and paranoia of the Cold War. 2004's remake also features a talented cast in Denzel Washington, Liev Schrieber, Meryl Streep and Jon Voigt, but misses badly as a movie. Produced for an audience that might only dimly remember the Cold War, the substitute premise of a rogue corporation selling arms fails the plausibility test, while a major change in the plot undercuts the credibility of one of the principal characters.
Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) is a veteran of the Gulf War, suffering from nightmares that seem to present an alternate version of a fire fight in which his life was saved by a Sergeant Raymond Shaw. Shaw, played with disquietingly detached deameanor by Liev Schrieber, is now on a greased path to political stardom, coached by his ambitious and prominent mother, played by Meryl Streep. Marco's attempts to resolve his nightmares lead him to contact Shaw and to suspect that his experience in the Gulf was an illusion. Marco's quest for the truth will lead him into a nasty conspiracy involving brainwashing, with a shocking outcome for Marco and Shaw.
"The Manchurian Candidate" has a good build-up, as Marco relentlessly seeks the truth of his experience in combat. However, the movie loses its way in its closing stages. An effort to be original by introducing changes in the basic story makes for an incoherent and implausible ending. 2004's "The Manchurian Candidate" may well be a perfectly acceptable movie for someone who had never seen the original. For those who saw and appreciated the original, this remake is a missed opportunity, worth a look mostly for the outstanding cast....more info
- comparison with original
i watched the new version last week, and having read the book and seen the original version, i thought the current version was well-acted and 21st century acceptable, but somehow not compelling. Now i am watching the original...there's no comparison! The original is so much more meaningful (and much truer to the book). I'm surprised Denzel Washington agreed to play the part of Marco if he had read the book or seen the original movie. Still, it's worth watching, i guess. ...more info
- Forget Comparing to the Original; It's Like a New Take on the Theme
The original "Candidate" was a masterpiece, and an awfully creepy film, considering the subject matter.
I personally would not watch the original first and then this; I'd do it the other way around. This film loosely takes the idea from the first one and replaces the communism scare with a corporate conspiracy. Oh, it still works just fine, but in only a few scenes did I find myself comparing it back to the original one.
Meryl Streep absolutely chews the scenery in this film, playing a combination Hillary/Coulter/Matalin hybrid who suffocates her son (and sacrifices him, literally) because of her political "true believer" status. Her tirade directly at fellow party members who initially reject making her son the VP nominee is classic. It reminded me of Alec Baldwin chewing up his five minutes in "Glengarry Glen Ross."
The most fun in the movie is watching Liev Schreiber start to unravel as he realizes what they remember from the Gulf War is not what it seemed, as is an early scene where a fellow vet confronts Denzel's character after a rah-rah speech to boy scouts about his Kuwait exploits. They don't waste much time here before letting you know something is really wrong.
Jonathan Demme directs and he uses his "Silence of the Lambs" technique of extreme facial closeups to great, disorienting effect. It's pretty freaky, quite often.
They update the original in that the "trigger" isn't a visual one but a verbal one, which I thought was a nice touch.
On repeated viewings, you'll catch some things you didn't notice before going on in the background and some "Did I just see...?" cameos, most notably by the one and only Robyn Hitchcock. And I swear, in one scene in the background, a guy who either is or really looks like Barry White is playing a security agent.
One last highlight is the completely over-the-top "convention" climax, when the two candidates come out to face the crowd. The "theatricality" and over-the-top absurdity of it all (a new Mt. Rushmore?!) probably seemed ridiculously funny a few years ago, but would probably be done irony-free these days.
Oh yeah, and you'll never look at Cup O' Noodles the same again after this.
This movie isn't just a thriller with elements of a modern MK-Ultra conspiracy but also a commentary on our current political system, whereas the original dealt more with the freaky thought of communist sleeper agents in our midst.
Highly recommended. Hey, it's Demme after all--it's hard to go wrong with this. If you liked the final explanation/twist about what happened in 'Nam in "Jacob's Ladder," this is right up your alley....more info
Denzel Washington deserves the Pullet Surprise for his half-baked performance in this piece of road kill.
Now Frank Sinatra in the original version: There was a man who could play a dufus whole-heartedly. Go for that instead....more info
- contemporary spin on a classic
Jonathan Demme's "The Manchurian Candidate" is a superb and timely 21st Century remake of John Frankenheimer's 1962 classic of Cold War terror and paranoia. For this new version, the Cold War has been replaced by the War on Terror as the menacing background against which the story unfolds, but, apart from that, the major plot points in both films are virtually the same. Both involve a group of soldiers who are brainwashed into believing that one of them, Sergeant Raymond Shaw, is a hero whose unquestioning bravery and quick thinking on the battlefield saved the lives of most of the men in that squadron. (The original's Korean War setting has been updated to the Gulf War's Desert Storm). In fact, upon his return, Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honor, a tribute he eventually parlays into a career as a United States congressman. After several of the men in the squadron begin having the same recurring nightmare in which they are being subjected to murderous hypnotic suggestions, one of them, Captain/Major Bennett Marco, comes to suspect that they may all be the victims of some nefarious scheme to implant them with microchips to get them to believe something that is not true. One of the few key differences between the new version and the old version is that the "Manchurian" of the title no longer refers to the Communists who do the brainwashing but rather to a mega-corporation (called Manchurian Global) that has positioned itself as the master puppeteer pulling the strings of government behind the scenes. And in its scathing vision of modern day politics, the film asks just how much of our freedom and civil liberties we are willing to sacrifice in exchange for "security" and "safety." No theme could be more timely.
It would be a disservice to "The Manchurian Candidate" to reveal too much about its ingeniously contrived plot, which is chock full of intrigue, suspense and larger-than-life events and people. The dominating figure in the nightmare scenario is Eleanor Shaw, an uber-powerful senator and the ultimate Machiavellian matriarch, whose unrelenting and nefarious effort to get her craven, mediocre Congressman son elected Vice President, serves as the engine that pulls the story forward. Thus, while Marco spends his time trying to piece together some semblance of the truth out of the fabricated memories and distorted half-truths spinning around in his jumbled memory and mind, Eleanor works her way to the ultimate position of power.
This new "Candidate" gleans its topicality and its contemporary significance by zeroing in on the nexus that exists between politics and the corrupt military-industrial complex - a connection made even more frightening when the latter, working in a moral vacuum, is able to employ the latest in technological advancements to further its cause.
Although the surrealistic elements are probably less shocking today than they were in 1962, the film still does an amazing job replicating the dislocation and fragmentation of Marco's mind, establishing a beautiful balance between the world of "real" reality and the world of virtual reality, a concept that seems far less incredible in this day and age of ubiquitous computer technology.
Denzel Washington takes over the role of Marco, originally played by Frank Sinatra, and Live Schreiber replaces Laurence Harvey as the mother-dominated Shaw. Both actors are superb. But it is Meryl Streep, stepping in for Angela Lansbury as the Big Bad Mama Supreme, who walks off with the film. Her portrayal of a ruthless and icy Lady MacBeth who will stop at nothing to get what she wants is bone-chilling and unforgettable.
In an age in which most thrillers are formulaic, empty exercises in high-tech wizardry and flash, perhaps it was necessary to reach back 42 years to find a work of power and substance to remind us of just how dangerous it is to allow modern technology to fall into the hands of the power-hungry and the ruthless. Indeed, what this gripping tale of an attempted coup against the United States government manages to do is to remind us that, even in this age of international terrorism, the greatest threat to our unity as a nation and our safety as a people may actually come from within.
3.5 stars. I liked this movie a heck of a lot better than the original. However, the battle of mothers will definitely go to Angela Lansbury over Meryl. Not that Meryl did a bad job, it's just Angela was outstanding. This movie filled in a little more holes for me-though I find the overall premises still far fetched and the ending wholly unbelivable. Still-a good rental....more info
- Manchurian Candidate 2004
This movie surprised me. Having seen the original years ago I had a vague recollection of the plot but was surprised and drawn in as the new version unfolded. Even as the climax came into view I was a little uncertain about was going to happen. This made the experience much more dramatic and enjoyable, which is what you want a movie to do for you.
The cast is excellent and the film making is top notch. It is visually and aurally appealing. The only thing I did not like was the music at the beginning of the film, which seemed out of place in a movie of this caliber. Fortunately it's brief and soon forgotten.
It's another winner for Denzel Washington - he's become one of my favorite actors. Makes a nice companion piece to Training Day.
I'm no film critic but wanted everyone to know this movie is timely, interesting, and very well done....more info
- Not bad remake with a partial good Washington.........
Denzel Washington (Training Day, Man On Fire) gets a case of paranoia in this updated remake of the 1960's classic, the one with Blue Eyes in it. Anyway, so Washington was saved in Gulf War supposedly he thinks by candidate Liev Schreiber (Scream Trilogy, Kate & Leopold) who is running for vice president. Schreiber's mother is played by Meryl Streep (upcoming Prime with Uma Thurman, The Hours) who gives a good performance here as she fools everyone around her, giving speeches and so on. So, Washington becomes really paranoid, asking questions, figuring things out and making sense of it if it's real or not. Not bad remake delivers some weird things with a partially good Denzel Washington....towards the end he wears off. Schreiber is real good in this as well. Also starring Jon Voight (National Treasure, Midnight Cowboy) and Kimberly Elise (John Q., Set It Off)....more info
- Not impressed
This movie is about a mega-corporation with special talents in mind control and manipulation of memories, that decides to apply those talents to gain control of the White House. Their target is the photogenic son turned war hero of a prominent US Senator who fits the role of the perfect political candidate. By implanting mechanical devices in his brain, Manchurian Global is able to take control of the young man for whatever purpose they need.
The premise is intriguing, and I can see where it would be very appealing to some, especially the "black helicopter" crowd. But I think more could have been done with this. Compared to the original, it falls way short. Denzell Washington was brilliant as always, although this was not his best performance, and Meryl Streep was easy to despise in light of today's current political environment.
I was interested enough to watch the entire movie, but wouldn't watch it again. And if you haven't seen either one, I would recommend the original....more info
- Good but not Great
Denzel Washington happens to be one of my favorite actors. He is just a convincing person in whatever role; whether he be Malcolm X or a dirty cop. He shines again in this one, about an experiment by a Venture capital company into mind control techniques on gulf war veterans.
What disturbed me about the story was not that this could be happening (and I don't not doubt it) but that it would be highly improbable to get someone into so high a position in the greatest power on earth. Had they made it at the state level then perhaps that may have had some credibility.
Apart from losing touch with reality on that point, I think the rest of the work is fairly well done. It was certainly entertaining and except for that black woman who acts as the FBI officer (Kimberly Elise I think) who in my opinion takes overacting to an extreme (check out the emotional scenes in John Q), the rest of the cast was great.
It is a definite thriller, but unfortunately it isn't an unforgettable classic. 3.5 stars from me.
A great paranoic flick. I want 2 see the original flick with Sinatra now. Denzel Washington is perfect in that role....more info
- Another Six Words ....Well Seven
To supplement the 13th January 2007 review by "1chiqu", I'd like to add:
AND MERYL STREEP IS NO ANGELA LANDSBURY.
Watch the original, not this turkey....more info
- 2.5 stars out of 4
The Bottom Line:
As far as remakes of beloved films go this one isn't too bad, with good performances by Streep and Schrieber and a reasonably successful updating of the original's premise; however, the ending is such an uninteresting copout that the film as a whole is just barely not worth recommending....more info
I love this movie. It is suspenseful and kind of creepy to think that our government could do such a thing (as you will find out once you watch the movie). It kept my attention and I just wanted to know what would happen next. I really enjoyed it and felt that it should be a part of my small DVD collection. ...more info
- How Much Do People Control a Democracy?
Jonathan Demme's version of "The Manchurian Candidate" was a favorite film of mine that recently came to my DVD collection as the result of a great price. Demme won the Oscar for directing "Silence of the Lambs" in 1991. I enjoyed watching the DVD extra interviews with him, only wondering why he didn't use a razor. :)
There is no doubt that with two Oscars for "Kramer vs. Kramer" in 1979, "Sophie's Choice" in 1982 & numerous other nominations, Meryl Streep is one of the most acclaimed actresses of our time. However, it was this film for which she was nominated by the British Academy Awards & the Golden Globes that really made me a Streep fan. To watch her glide through Eleanor Shaw with elegance, polish and the cold-blooded instincts for political survival was incredible. The scene where she's wearing purple sunglasses and swirls around lecturing the other Manchurian Global bigshots was breathtaking.
Liev Schreiber who I recently enjoyed in The Painted Veil does an excellent job as Congressman Raymond Shaw. Schreiber has been nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a TV movie or miniseries for "RKO 281." As Shaw, he does a masterful job of playing the polished politician with perhaps too strong ties to his mother's apron strings.
That said, Denzel Washington turns in another blockbuster performance as Maj. Bennett Marco. Washington has two Oscars for "Glory" in 1989 & "Training Day" in 2001. The levels he achieves -- from the stable military commander to the unstable programmed assassin to a confused man trying to figure out a puzzle -- result in a varied & excellent performance. Demme particularly complimented Washington on the scene where Marco tells Shaw that there is a strong bond between the two of them.
Jon Voight who won his Best Actor Oscar for "Coming Home" in 1978 as a stressed out veteran does a good job here as Sen. Thomas Jordan who gets squeezed out of a vice presidential nomination. Vera Farmiga who I'm enjoying in the DVD Never Forever and who played in "The Departed" performs well in the cameo appearance as Jocelyn Jordan, the daughter of Sen. Shaw and the past romantic interest of Raymond Shaw. Her demise is as strangely beautiful as it is violent. Kimberly Elise who was in "The Great Debators" plays Rosie with depth, the F.B.I. agent who becomes sympathetic to Washington's Bennett Marco. Jeffrey Wright who has recently played in "Casino Royale" as well as the new James Bond film "Quantum of Solace" does a masterful job as the unstable Al Melvin who is haunted by his dreams, writes them down in a journal and scribbles disturbing drawings on the wall of his flat.
Demme keeps the pace moving, the intrigue breathtaking up to the final shots in the film. This was a great picture whose performances make it worth viewing. I also found the issues of just how much control the people actually have in a democracy when those elected constantly try to control the outcome to be relevant to present day. Enjoy! ...more info
- Unnecessary remake
Being a huge fan of the original film, I was immediately intrigued upon learning that there was going to be a remake - starring Denzel Washington in the Frank Sinatra role, no less. Denzel as Maj. Ben Marco! Jonathan Demme directing?? And one thing I found out about this new version of "Manchurian Candidate" is that the ending is truer to the original book than the 1962 version was. So that right there gave me three reasons to make this a MUST SEE!
However, this rehash of "The Manchurian Candidate" left me feeling totally cheated. I know they decided to update the script to modernize it for today's audiences (the threat of Communism in Cold War America was the focus in the original), but making corporate America the enemy instead and brainwashing an entire platoon into believing their hated sergeant, Raymond Shaw, saved their lives in the Gulf War (when he really didn't) and becomes a decorated war hero for it was too much of a stretch for me to believe. It was a veritable plot with the Russians, Koreans and Chinese as the evil leaders of Communism in the '50s and '60s, but not now. Stories like this aren't meant to be updated because they don't translate well when they are made for a new generation.
Are we really supposed to buy this new twist on the story that Manchurian Global, a huge and powerful international corporation, wants to have a "yes" man in the White House? Couldn't they just do that with campaign contributions?
And while we're asking questions, what is the purpose of going to such an extreme length to do this, brainwashing the whole platoon to believe that Raymond is a great guy? If he's already been elected to public office, then who cares if he was likable or not? Would it really matter? Why choose Shaw and not someone else? It doesn't make sense. In the original, you might have found suitable answers to some of these questions. In this one, they are never answered. There are a lot of loose ends that were left hanging when they re-wrote this script.
I was really disappointed in the Raymond Shaw character, which in the original (played superbly by Laurence Harvey), was truly obnoxious to everyone around him and he had an absolutely venomous attitude when it came to his mother. He literally could not stand the sight of her. However, in this one, Raymond (Liev Schrieber) merely tolerates her overbearing behavior with a ho-hum type persona. There is a scene between mother and son which is stomach-turning, and further gives you the impression that perhaps Raymond didn't despise his mother as much as he claimed to. He also seems to like the attention he is given as the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor; whereas in the original film, he hated all the fuss made over him because of it. The role of the inept stepfather senator, John Iselin, is non-existent in this version, and Raymond becomes the political figure whose domineering mother (who is herself a state senator) is pushing her son far beyond where he wants to go.
I love all the actors in this movie (Denzel and Meryl Streep as Raymond's hell-on-wheels mother were especially convincing), but this was a poor vehicle for all of them. As in the original version, I failed to see the purpose of the character of Eugenie aka Rosie (played by Janet Leigh in the 1962 version, and Kimberly Elise in this one). At least they gave her more to do in this version, so that was a small plus, but not by much.
To me, the star-power was not enough to save "The Manchurian Candidate". I found it too lengthy and boring, and I honestly fell asleep in the theatre while watching it. When I woke up from my nap, and it was still on, I couldn't believe that it wasn't over yet. Maybe because I am such a fan of the original, my opinion is biased. If I had never seen it, I probably would have enjoyed this film a lot more. But I truly feel that to remake this classic - even with Jonathan Demme as director - was a colossal waste of time. Goes to show that you shouldn't try to improve upon perfection. Watch the original instead....more info
- A bit of a stretch but very good entertainment
Someone else's mind over someone else's matter. Not even mother gets her way. What made it fun was the surprise ending that ended exactly the way you expected it to end. That is always fun for me! The joy of successfully figuring out what will happen and it does.
Nice believable performances help make this a fun evening. Did they tie up all the lose ends? I might have to re-watch this sometime to double check. Some things seem unfinished.
- Denzel at his best!
This is an excellent movie. Very much like the original but with differences that are done very well. I highly recommend this movie. The acting is fantastic....more info
- Parrallel Political Intrigue
While being accompanied by a member of the press during the Persian Gulf War, an army unit is ambushed. The men of the unit don't remember much of what happened after the attack but they all remember that they were saved because of the actions of Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber). After the conflict, Shaw was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor by his commanding officer, Capt. Ben Marco (Denzel Washington). Shaw won the award and the recognition he received allowed him to successfully run for political office.
Years later Major Marco runs into another member of his unit, Al Melvin (Jeffrey Wright) from those days who questions Marco about what really happened in the desert and asks him if he ever has any dreams. Marco politely dismisses Melvin's accusations, but he knows he speaks the truth because he hasn't stopped having any dreams since he returned home and he spends his time off duty as a broken man. Melvin's meeting sets off a chain reaction with Marco's brain and he begins to remember things better. When he sees that Raymond Shaw has been nominated for a Vice Presidential nomination, he sets out to meet with Shaw and discover the truth. It's a journey down a rabbit hole more terrifying than anything Alice ever met: from mind altering implants beneath the skin, convenient murders, brainwashing, with an international corporation known as Manchurian Global trying to covertly take over the world.
When I first heard that Hollywood was going to remake THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, I was very skeptical. The original film has become a classic example of political intrigue. That film was made in the heyday of the Cold War and not only captured the hovering suspicion leftover from McCarthyism, but also portrayed the attempted assassination of a president, eerily foreshadowing what actually happened to President Kennedy just a few month later.
Two generations have passed since original THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and the geopolitical landscape of the world has changed drastically. Except for the overpopulated nation of China and a few small countries scattered around the globe, Communism no longer poses a threat to democracy. In its stead we are faced with a new type of conflict that has no national, political, and religious borders. This new conflict provides the opportunity for businesses to engage in legal international war profiteering, something that the world has never seen the likes of. It is against this backdrop that the new THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is set warning not of sabotage from a foreign power, but of a secret and sublime internal takeover brought about by corporate greed.
I really enjoyed THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. The acting is top-notch with fine performances from all lead actors (Washington, Schreiber, and Meryl Streep as Eleanor Shaw give Oscar-worth performances) and most of the supporting cast. The script has been rewritten in such a way that it doesn't mess with the spirit of the original film and novel, but is able to add some new twists and present the troubling concept as a very real possibility more relevant than ever in our current political landscape. The film has a great plot, wonderful writing, and some very powerful artistic and directorial techniques that add to overall tone.
Of course, even if I believed otherwise I might not say it because even now they're watching you, you know.
The DVD includes a commentary with director Jonathan Demme and co-writer Daniel Pyne, a couple of featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes with optional commentary, and Liev Schreiber's screen test....more info
- Nice Try, But Watch the Original First
Though it lacks the quiet dignity of the original, Jonathan Demme's talky update of "The Manchurian Candidate" manages to hit enough points to qualify as a watchable thriller. The story, of course, has been updated beyond its Cold War roots, meaning the communists aren't the villains anymore. (I won't tell you who they are, but aside from Nazis, who is a villain of convenience nowadays?) That also means that the plot is needlessly top heavy with details and machinations, turning a story that originally was chilling in its simplicity into something cumbersome, as well as more brooding than frightening.
Likable Denzel Washington steps into Frank Sinatra's venerable shoes as Ben Marco, the Army major unfortunate enough to have his squad turned into diabolical experiments in mind control. This time, he isn't suffering only from nightmares but from what seems the worst case of Gulf War Syndrome on record. Lacking the pathos of Lawrence Harvey, Liev Schreiber makes for a reptilian Raymond Shaw, the soldier at the center of what may be a fantastic assassination plot, only this time, he's a senator with designs on the White House. (This script jettisons the Johnny Iselin character, thus robbing the movie of some of the original's bitingly satirical moments; it also maddeningly reduces Shaw's near redemptive romance with a political opponent's daughter to an expository footnote and trades the functions of some characters.) But perhaps the biggest flaw is Meryl Streep's generally histrionic approach to the role of Raymond's mother. As acclaimed an actress as she is, Streep's portrayal seems a burlesque of Angela Lansbury's stunning foray into villainy.
Demme's direction is less taut than in "Silence of the Lambs" and showier but often less effective than John Frankenheimer's - oddly enough, some deleted scenes show a better grasp of the concept than what made it into the theatrical version. The original, an almost perfect film, remains the definitive version....more info
- Very exciting, with some twists.
Of course, I don't usually watch these types of action movies, but I knew that anything Ms. Streep is in must be quality, and I was right. Yes, I did like this movie, although, I remember reading the novel, years ago, and they really changed the story around in this version. Everyone has to keep up with the times, I suppose. The most entertaining things are the plot twists at the end, where you don't really know what's going to happen next -- and Mr. Washington does keep you on the edge of your seat. This movie is definately for the younger crowd. I will reserve anymore judgement to them. I'm sure they will enjoy it more than I....more info
- (3.5) "I have these dreams, sir."
On routine recon during Operation Desert Storm, Capt. Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) and his team, including Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) mysteriously disappear for three days, but later Sgt. Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honor for saving the men, except for two unavoidable fatalities. Years later, Shaw is positioned to run for Vice-President of the United States, if his conniving mother, Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep) has anything to say about it.
Ben Marco is deeply disturbed, far more than warranted by delayed stress reaction, haunted by nightmares and images of himself and Shaw in a clinical setting. The VA doctors can do nothing but medicate Marco, but when another soldier from their unit approaches with some of the same dreams and memories, Marco begins to wonder if something was done to his group during those three missing days in the Middle East.
Eventually, Marco contacts Shaw, but Shaw is unwilling to hear his fellow soldier out, in the
middle of his political campaign. Left to his own devices, Marco does his own research; he is being watched, but it is unclear who is doing the surveillance and why. Psychologically unmoored, Marco drifts along, occasionally jolted by recurring images and fragments of conversations. The momentum of a political campaign is contrasted with Marco's confusion. Urging Shaw to meet with him, Marco hopes they can unravel the dreams and the missing days. But Shaw remains emotionally unavailable, almost an automaton, at least the way Schreiber chooses to portray the candidate. Shaw: "Life is so bizarre, isn't it?" Marco: "Which one?"
As Shaw's mother, Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, Streep is smarmy and unctuous, a controlling matriarch unwilling to let her son out of her sight, directing his career and bullying anyone who opposes her agenda, chewing up the screen and all in her wake. There is one particularly disgusting scene between mother and son that leaves little to the imagination. Certainly, Streep doesn't look old enough to play Schreiber's mother, but maybe this character has something else in mind. Washington is larger onscreen than this role, plodding along in a fog, but determined to learn the truth.
The evil plot goes as planned... almost, but Raymond finally disappoints as the perfect son, the scheme set in motion during the Gulf War thwarted. Only in the movies. With media cooperation, the "assassin" is identified, but the plan is never exposed to a gullible public, glued to their television screens. A murky screenplay renders this film somewhat confusing. With its twisted psychological overtones, Jonathan Demme's version hasn't the dramatic punch of the original, which starred Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury. Unfortunately, place and time are critical to this particular story. What isn't broken needn't be fixed in the first place. Luan Gaines/ 2005.
- Good intentions by themselves are not enough!
The script is the spine of a film; I guess there must not be any doubt about it. And this is, precisely the main default: there were too unfinished many details and the cast direction was really terrible.
Let's start with the FBI female agent: simply unbearable; I really couldn't believe it: this role was a fundamental piece in this puzzle script and facing her with Denzel Washington the difference increased exponentially: inexpressive and extremely flat acting without hues.
What happened with Meryl Streep? This character wasn't understood; the perversity, cruelty level and moral depravation shown by Langsbury can not be reduced to a cynical smile and some frenetic raptures. The audience does not know anything about her past; there wasn't a simple flash back about her relationship with her husband; Streep was extremely monochromatic, vapid if you want if you consider her actress status, she seemed to be absolutely absent. I just think in three actresses who perhaps could match with this extremely complex role: Jessica Lange would have been my first choice, Glenn Close (Dangerous liaisons and Fatal Attraction are enough evidences she likes and even handles those border edge roles), or Helen Mirren.
What's up with the implant as dramatic support?, insipid and imprecise.
What about with the wasted talent of Mr. Voight? his lines seem be written by a personal enemy. The dramatis personae about a crisis of such magnitude were not polished at all.The dialogues do not reflect the real magnitude of what's goin' on.
In the other hand, Denzel saves the game with his undeniable talent but it wasn't enough. Roland Shaw character was OK but Demme doesn't feel comfortable with this political thriller. I just can think in three directors that know this land and domain the multiple involved implications: Phillip Noyce , Wolfang Petersen and Oliver Stone.
Finally the pretentious twist of fate of the original script at the end of the film, was a true anticlimax.
It would not be fair to compare this remake with Frankheimer's original. It would be a sin and besides an insult!
- Absolutely terrible
Couldn't believe how bad this was - disjointed, tedious, waste of time. Doesn't come near the original, which had me riveted. Meryl Streep gives a good performance, but I was disappointed in Denzel Washington. Some remakes are never meant to happen....more info