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A Mediocre Remake for Our Mediocre Political Times (SPOILERS)
ecarle1 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
(SPOILERS for both the original and the remake)

This was not a bad movie on its own terms. Good cast, stylish direction by Jonathan Demme (though now in his trademark style: huge close-ups of people looking right at the camera), some nice suspense.

But everything – and I mean everything – that made the original 'Manchurian Candidate' an unforgettable classic has been forcibly removed or revamped into dumbed-down mediocrity for our sped-up, sound-bite-ridden, politicized times.

Part of the problem, indeed , is that we can't make a 1962 movie today. We're way in the future now, and the quiet, rather straightforward simplicity of the original could not be put on the screen today (Van Sant tried it with his shot-by-shot 'Psycho' and it didn't work.)

So instead of beginning (after a brief prologue) with a brilliant credit-sequence and David Amram's deeply sad and aching score, the new one begins with a herky-jerky burst of loud rock music and a helter-skelter barrage of images of war. It's 2004, kids, enough of that quiet emotional crap.

From the start, the original had emotional resonance via its music and credit portraits of the pensive lead players alone. From the start, the new movie has no emotional resonance at all. The biggest shock is how the emotion has been sucked out of the story, entirely.

In the original, when Raymond killed the Senator and his daughter, the daughter was Raymond's new wife, the woman he deeply loved, the only person in the world who might possibly save Raymond from the pre-programmed horror of his life. Raymond's killing of those two people was the turning point of the entire film – and filmed by John Frankenheimer as a dazzling Wellesian cinema sequence with the symbolic wit of the film's dark comedy (the milquetoast liberal Senator dies shot through a carton of milk, his bleeding heart bleeding the milk of human kindness.)

All gone now in the remake's bizarre attempt to merge the murder scene with Raymond's great 'jump in the lake' scene from the original. The Senator's daughter (who looks oddly like Marilyn Manson) barely cares about Raymond anymore. His killing her is of little emotional pain.

The karate fight is gone, which means the new film is action-free, but something else important is missing:

In the original, Raymond sees his 'houseboy,' and doesn't recognize him as the man who betrayed and tortured him. Marco sees the same 'houseboy,' recognizes him on sight, and launches his furious payback attack.

There was a POINT to that. Raymond was weak, controllable. Marco was tough; his brainwashing didn't take. The contrast of tough Marco and sneering, weak Raymond, and their bonding as fellow brainwashees, was emotional and meaningful. The new Marco and Raymond prove, near the end, essentially interchangeable.

The simply magnificent 'garden party' dream sequences of the original have been removed and replaced with generic herky-jerky mind-bend sequences (we saw just last week in 'The Bourne Supremacy.')

The wonderfully symbolic playing cards/Queen of Diamonds theme has been replaced by the old microchips-planted-in-my-brain canard (we saw just last month in 'The Stepford Wives.') There is no longer a visual linkage between the Queen of Diamonds and Raymond's mother.

The wonderful trigger line: 'Why don't you pass the time by playing a nice game of solitare?' has been replaced with a banal 'Sergeant Shaw. Sergeant Raymond Prentice Shaw' – so that when Streep utters the words, she had to bark them like some sort of nutcase drill sergeant (Lansbury simply offered the chilling invitation to her son.)

Classic movies bring the right actors together in the right combination. As good as they are, none of the four leads here – Washington, Streep, Schreiber, Elise – make the emotional connection that their four forbears made.

Streep is the worst, indulging her usual tics and self-referential mannerisms to make Mrs. Shaw a one-dimensional political ogre rather than the grand monster that Angela Lansbury was (here,the Manchurian Global baddies look at Steep near the end as if thinking 'We hired this idiot politician to front us?') Times being what they are, Streep will get an Oscar and mumble speeches like "For little old me? I don't deserve this." She doesn't.

Washington is a highly skilled actor who captures this version of Marco well – but Sinatra's Marco was a tougher character (that karate fight) rendered far more sad and soulful in Sinatra's best performance. Sinatra was always a great singer of lost loves and causes – he carried that emotion forward to his work as Marco. Washington can play tough, but doesn't really get to, here. Washington's fierce intelligence also neutralizes his emotional connection to the story. It's not whether Sinatra or Washington is the better actor (both won Oscars), its Sinatra's fitting the tale better.

Liev Schreiber has it in him to match Laurence Harvey's singular performance in the original (so unlovable – and yet so sad; a killer beyond his ability to control it), but the new script doesn't give Schreiber a chance.

And yes, Rosie is explained in this movie – as a character we've seen in 100 movies and 1,000 TV shows. The mystery is gone. Kimberly Elise is given nothing new to play. And she is not the star -- yet -- that Janet Leigh was when she played the role. Identification with Leigh (right after "Psycho") was more intense.

The ending of the new film mangles the meaning of the original. The switch of assassins requires the elimination of the tragedy of the original, and forces a expository epilogue in the modern 'gotta explain it all" tradition.

And the loss of Joe McCarthy, World Communism, the Chinese, the Russians, and the Koreans in favor of gutless Hollywood PC villainy (an evil corporation, white guys smoking cigars, and a South African white scientist) is standard issue. We've seen this movie before – and it wasn't 'The Manchurian Candidate.'

That the new 'Manchurian Candidate' is worth seeing at all is because the source material is so good they can't totally wreck it, and because the star actors are interesting enough even if they never soar where the original took its characters.

It's a three-star movie of four-star plus material, and in destroying virtually everything that made the original such a special film and great classic, the new 'Manchurian Candidate' deserves a drop of at least another star.
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Less powerful, less edgy, and less intelligent than the original.
ramirocardozo30 November 2004
Three months ago I watched the original Manchurian Candidate on DVD. I was amazed on how good this movie is, and how well it holds up after 42 years of its release in movie theaters.

So, yesterday when I watched the 2004 version directed by Jonathan Demme it was impossible for me not to compare the two films.

Without the existence of the original, Demme's effort could be defined as a good (not outstanding) political thriller and it's easy to think that this definition is compatible with the general opinion of today's audiences.

But (a big but) in reality there is an original, and it is so good, so brave, and so well written that this new version almost feels pointless.

In adapting the story to modern day Jonathan Demme made more wrong choices than good ones diminishing the power and intensity of the original.

This remake took out some key dramatic elements that work marvelously in the original film inserting some new and poorly written plot twists changing and damaging the dramatic resolution.

This version is inferior in almost every level (the only exception is the acting). It is less powerful, less edgy, and less intelligent.

Fortunately for Demme the original picture is not as well known as classics like 'Casablanca' and this will allow his film to find a moderate positive acceptance.
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Meryl, you're no Angela Lansbury
jeffgramny17 August 2004
While the 2004 remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" is ensemble acting at its finest, Meryl Streep seems to be having a bit too much fun playing the villainess Eleanor Prentiss Shaw. She doesn't have the same blood-curdling constitution as did Angela Lansbury.

"What was I supposed to do, call a MEETING?" she exclaims as her wimpy male colleagues in the shadowy Manchurian Global upbraid her for ordering someone killed without consulting them. Problem is, she was radiantly glowing when she uttered the line, which produced laughs in the NYC theatre I was in.

When she showers Liev Schreiber with overly affectionate kisses and hugs, one again suspects Meryl was having a bit too much fun on camera with someone she finds quite attractive -- don't we all? -- in real life.

On its own, the 2004 remake is fine cinema. But the problem with all remakes is the inevitable comparison with original. And sadly, as much as I like the 2004 version, my vote goes with Angie Lansbury and Laurence Harvey.
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Don't Get Caught Up Making Comparisons!
Zen Bones25 August 2004
I have to admit, I was horrified to see that someone was remaking the 1964 near-masterpiece. I had no intention of seeing it, but then I happened to catch Demme and Washington on "Charlie Rose", and Demme put my mind to rest that he was not trying to remake the original picture. I was still skeptic, but I decided to have an open mind and check it out for myself. I'm glad I did.

The only thing this film has in common with the 1964 film is a political background, a domineering mother, and the brainwashing angle (which is done significantly differently here). This film is about what's happening now, and it's as gutsy as any film in today's political climate can possibly get. The story is told through the inflamed, paranoid POV of a Gulf War veteran who tries to unveil a plot between a corporate hierarchy (that's involved in the defense industries and medical technologies among other things) and certain politicians who want to stake their influence on a vice presidential nominee. This 'influence' is achieved through the brainwashing of the nominee as well as several soldiers who had been stationed with him in Kuwait.

Political machinery and defense industries have always been dangerous bedfellows, but when the politicians actually have worked in, and have personal interests in those industries, the motivations of such a partnership can be used to exploit the public in all sorts of ominous ways. This film brilliantly places the sort of paranoia that can derive from such precarious matches as a sign of our times. Consciously or subconsciously, conspiracies are on all of our minds. Today, because there is so much secrecy in the current administration, no one knows just how terrible OR innocent these guys might really be. And where there is secrecy, there will be conspiracy theories galore. Paranoia is so commonplace in such a society that it is technically very easy for plots and lies to thrive healthfully. We tell ourselves, "the government is honest and probably has good reasons to keep secrets from the public, so those who see plots and conspiracies must all simply be deluded and paranoid. Right?"

The fact is that politicians can easily lie, and the media, instead of demanding the truth, puts outrageous spins on those lies claiming to present them as 'facts'. This becomes an almost intolerable static that begins to blot out all meaning. One of the most ingenious things about this film is in its use of that kind of static. Throughout much of the film, there is a cacophony of radios and TV spewing out their obligatory spins simultaneously, as well as the nearly constant sounds of traffic and people talking over one another. The people in this movie can hear, but no one is listening. There's also a proverbial static between science and technology and the moral questions that remain elusive. The survivors of the brainwashing experiment mentioned above, have little chips implanted in their backs that somehow aid the brainwashers. The chips could be some sort of homing device, or perhaps some sort of hormone moderator that's supposed to keep the men in the mental state that makes them more easily susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Well, chips that can serve as homing devices, or that can regulate hormones and amino acids such as tryptophan, are in the experimental phase today. In other words, this isn't way-out science fiction here!

Okay, I know I'm sounding like I'm paranoid and that I'm saying that everything in this film can and will happen. Don't worry, I know this is just a movie and that the events depicted in it are EXTREMELY unlikely to ever take place. What I'm focusing on is how well the film takes themes, facts and situations that are topical and at least emotionally legitimate, and presents them in the context of a whopper of a good thriller. The film is fresh and audacious and honest in all of its approaches, with the one exception of Meryl Streep who seems to think she's in a Bette Davis movie. In the original "Manchurian Candidate" Angela Lansbury played her role, and she was appropriately icy, deliberate, and almost iconic in the way she carried her power. For some reason Streep tried to go to self-consciously comic proportions (you can almost see her winking at the audience saying "don't you just LOVE how bad I am?"). The rest of the performances however, are appropriately sober and solid. I never caught Washington acting, and Schrieber is masterful in the way he consolidates the conscious and subconscious friction of his character's agony into an invisible but palpable tension. The score by Rachel Portman is eerily reminiscent of Howard Shore's score for "Silence of the Lambs", and just as exciting and effective. And I can't help but thrill over Wyclef Jean's fantastic rendition of the CCR song "Fortunate One": a version as appropriate to this decade as the original version was to the late sixties (check out the lyrics: replace 'senator's son' with 'president's' son, and see if George W. Bush doesn't come to mind!).

Finally, is this film as good as the original version? They're so different I honestly can't compare. I can only say that this film is as appropriate to the political and sociological climate of today as the original was to its day. Don't forget both versions were based on a novel, so comparisons should be made in that context more than anything else (I haven't read the book so I can't comment on that). There are some loopholes in the current film's plot, and I do love the cinematic style of the original film more than this one. But as I was only a kid when the first film came out, this film has a slightly stronger emotional impression on me than the other one. I only hope all it stays science fiction!
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If It Ain't Broke ...
Fenrir-58 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Although the marketers insist that it isn't a straight remake of the original, it obviously is – all they key elements are the same. The new twist is supposed to be a post-modern take on America, because every liberal with a camera loves to point at the United States and laugh. Yet somehow it just feels simple and lazy. All the observations are obvious; the supposedly sly political commentary is about as elevated as Al Franken pulling a funny face, or Michael Moore ingratiating himself to Canadians by assuring them how stupid Americans are.

Denzel Washington is the epitome of cool. I don't think he can give a bad performance. He gives this movie all his effort, and I would say that his performance and the brief one by Jeffrey Wright as Al Melvin are the best parts of the film. But even Washington can't overcome a scenery-chewing, cringe-inducing overacting seminar given by Meryl Streep, the exercise in blandness that is Liev Schreiber, and a generally inconsistent, heavy-handed, and patently ridiculous storyline.

The movie starts off on the wrong foot with a jarring and poorly-constructed opening. We are subjected to about five minutes of soldiers playing cards in the back of an armored vehicle, while different loud rock tracks cut in every few seconds. This is the credit sequence, and it is not crucial to the movie. But it completely fails to draw the viewer into the atmosphere the filmmakers are trying to set (Wyclef Jean destroying John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" doesn't help).

Then we have brief action in Kuwait and a sudden jump cut to the present day. Raymond Shaw is running for the Vice President position, and everyone believes he heroically rescued his entire squad in Kuwait. Marco is on the lecture circuit, speaking to Boy Scout troops about his time in action. He is confronted by former squad mate Melvin, who tells him that he is having bad dreams and who shows Marco a journal of drawings and notes. Marco reacts strangely to this – rather than admitting that he has these bad dreams himself, he holds Melvin at arms' length. We all know at this point that Melvin will turn up dead later in the movie, so it's best to say your goodbyes now.

This is where the first plot hole of the movie shows up. Suddenly Marco is completely involved in this conspiracy theory, merely by seeing Melvin's journal and having some more bad dreams. Are we expected to believe that in the years following the incident in Kuwait, the men of the unit never got together to discuss what happened? That none of their superiors found it odd that they gave the same word-for-word description of what supposedly happened, or had the same nightmares? Marco tries to speak with Shaw, who is busy with his campaign and incredibly controlled and domineered by his mother. On the way to speak to Shaw, Marco is approached by a woman named Rosie (the required love interest) who mysteriously invites him to her New York apartment. Here we have another plot hole, as Marco discovers an implant in his shoulder while showering (so he never touched his shoulder for over ten years before this?) but loses it down the sink. Marco then arranges a meeting with Shaw and in a curiously homo-erotic scene bends him over a table and bites his back. This allows him to steal Shaw's implant, which he then gives to crazy scientist friend Delp (another plot line that goes nowhere) who for some reason gives Marco a massive electric shock to the head. I'm sure he explained why he did this, but his accent was so damn thick I couldn't understand a word, and in the end it makes no difference whatsoever.

More of the conspiracy is revealed as the presidential election draws near. Marco continues investigating, clicking a Google link as dramatic music plays. Turns out that Rosie may be a federal agent. Shaw himself waffles (he's a flip-flopper!) between robotic guilt and robotic ambition. Meryl Streep eats a couch. Shaw wades into a river in a full suit and kills a man with a kayak, then drowns his one true love. Nobody finds this suspicious. Then suddenly the federal agents who didn't believe a word of Shaw's story completely trust him and escort him to a private room with the man, on the eve of the election; both men are triggered and start the assassination plot … which has a bizarre twist at the end.

There is one aspect of the storyline – a dropped plot line – that particularly frustrated me. In the original movie, it was killing his childhood sweetheart that caused Shaw to rebel. In this version we are subjected to a few torturous scenes of Shaw insisting that Jocelyne was his one true love, despite the fact that the two actors have absolutely zero chemistry (to be fair, what woman could love a robot). Then Shaw offs her in a river with her dad and the entire plot line is dropped. This just makes no sense. In fact, the entire scene where Shaw kills the Jordan family is ridiculous – killing a man in the open in his kayak? This screams screenwriter phobia.

Why go to all this trouble just to get a guy elected president? It doesn't appear to be very hard to do, particularly if you have the right last name. But at this point in time the demonizing of Americans has become a cottage industry, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. It doesn't seem to matter to the people who buy this stuff whether or not the story is believable, coherent, or even entertaining. As long as it's critical of the United States it's in. If that's your mindset, I suggest you cozy up with this tepid remake and lather up your back for a good patting. Otherwise it's just more grist for the cable TV mill.
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New "Candidate" pales when compared to first
sports-827 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers Perhaps it was to my disadvantage to have seen the original Frank Sinatra, Lawrence Harvey, Angela Landsbury film, "The Manchurian Candidate," from 1962. You see, it sort of jaded me. I mean, after all, you should never mix very good films with ones which are not, well, not quite as good.

John Frankenheimer's Cold War drama was steeped in dark atmospheric brooding reflecting the paranoia of the times (it was released during our closest brush with nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis - and it was reported that President Kennedy admired the movie) and had a distinct anti-Communist message.

This updated Paramount version doesn't really have a point to make and therefore loses any political direction or motivation it might have taken.

In 1991 Kuwait, US Army Captain Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) and his unit are ambushed by a pickup full of Iraqis. During the firefight, Marco is knocked out and we're left to wonder what actually happened that night.

The film then advances to the present day with (now major) Marco giving a talk to a group of Boy Scouts, praising the efforts of one of his men, Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) who saved the unit and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

After the talk, Marco is met by a disheveled former member of that platoon, Cpl. Al Melvin (a fine, but all too short, performance by Jeffrey Wright), who tells him about his weird dreams and saying that things may not be exactly as they seem. This starts Marco - who himself is haunted with night terrors and hallucinations - on a wild investigation of what really happened that night in Kuwait.

Was there hypnotism or brainwashing involved like the first "Candidate" movie? Could be.

Meanwhile, Shaw, guided by his overbearing, Hillary Clinton-like almost incestuous mother, Senator Eleanor Prentis Shaw (Meryl Streep in the role that won Landsbury a Best Supporting Actress nomination), has capitalized on his heroics with election to the US House of Representatives from New York. Now mommy wants him to be the next Vice-President, convincing the party to dump venerable five-term Senator, Thomas Jordan (John Voight, "Midnight Cowboy," "Coming Home") right before the convention.

Guided by powerful members of the Manchurian Global Corporation (whatever that is), mom wants her boy to eventually replace the party's presidential candidate, Robert Arthur (Tom Stechschulte).

Here's where I ran into trouble, however. Why do they want to get rid of the President (once he's elected)? What's the motivation behind such plans and how many people are actually involved in it? The picture doesn't really answer any of these questions. We know something sinister is going on, we just don't know what it is or why it's happening. The corporate angle is played off as sinister as possible, and there's certainly no denying that great global conglomerates rule much of our lives, but it just isn't frightening as presented by director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs).

Maybe it's because we don't know enough about who's behind Manchurian, just a brief glimpse of a few of its leaders, including Dean Stockwell. Manchurian is evil simply because Demme TELLS us it is evil.

After Melvin is found dead in a river and Marco finds bizarre notes and drawings in the late corporal's apartment, the major begins his search in earnest. Of course, as in any film of this type, Marco is completely alone, no one believes him and everyone thinks he's insane. Supporting characters, such as the annoying Rosie (Kimberly Elise), whom Marco meets on a train (and is immediately invited to share her New York apartment), are then thrown in for no apparent reason, and Marco is arrested for assaulting Shaw in his campaign headquarters.

During the altercation, he bites that VP candidate, and pulls out a GPS device of some kind, just like one he had discovered in his own body. Marco is still unable to convince Shaw of what's going on, but Senator Shaw hypnotizes the major into killing the President-elect (was there any doubt he would win?!) at his victory party. Instead, Marco kills someone else, but is totally exonerated while the whole thing is blamed on Manchurian Global, and everything ends as convoluted and confused as ever.

Film also speeds up, slightly, only to slow down to a dead crawl, putting many into a stupor, the kind Maj. Marco and Sgt. Shaw must have been in that night in Kuwait.

Washington, as usual, is first-rate as the put-upon loner struggling against the power of the state, while Streep may earn another Oscar nomination for her wildly over-the-top performance as the soiled mother. Schreiber appears throughout picture as appropriately dazed, but Voight is completely wasted.
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Better than most remakes, but not as compelling as the original
anhedonia2 August 2004
Here's something I never thought I'd say: I enjoyed parts of "The Manchurian Candidate" remake; it isn't as bad as I expected it to be.

And much of the credit goes to the three main players - Denzel Washington as the paranoid veteran, Liev Schreiber as the titular character and Meryl Streep as the power-hungry, Oedipally motivated Senator Eleanor Shaw.

Screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris reinvent and contemporize Richard Condon's novel and the 1962 film. While John Frankenheimer's film, written by George Axelrod, was the apotheosis of the Cold War thriller and a scathing indictment of McCarthyism, Jonathan Demme's remake is less subtle in its approach and paranoia, but takes barbed jabs at current politics, the corruptibility of our elected leaders and paranoia disguised as patriotism in a post-9/11 America.

The remake also owes a debt of gratitude to Alan J. Pakula's brilliant 1974 paranoia-conspiracy thriller, "The Parallax View."

Although it isn't clear whether Raymond Shaw is a Republican or Democrat - his mother certainly seems more Republican in her outlook and politics - Demme and his writers' point is that all American politicians are bought and paid for by big business. As we all know, we never heeded President Eisenhower's prescient caution about the military industrial complex.

The villainous Manchurian Global clearly was inspired by Halliburton - there's even mention of the company getting no-bid contracts. Pay close attention and you'll hear pointed references about the use of private contractors by the military, malfunctioning touch-screen voting machines and our government's "compassionate vigilance." Also, look fast and you'll see a news crawl about a Wal-Mart-type chain and a newspaper story about our treatment of Muslims.

Washington's awfully convincing as a man fraying at the edges, whose grip on reality seems to be slowly slipping, and there were a few moments where Schreiber almost reminded me of Laurence Harvey.

Streep, on the other hand, proves why she is undoubtedly the best actress this nation has ever produced. Her Eleanor spits venom. We're utterly convinced why Raymond's such a cuckold. We can only imagine what his poor father must have endured. Streep occasionally comes close to being campy, but so completely dominates the screen that she scares us even when she chews ice.

But several other talented actors, including Jon Voight, Vera Farmiga, Dean Stockwell and Ted Levine, are used to little or no effect.

Some crucial plot elements make no sense. The Dr. Noyle scenario, for instance, proves to be illogical, especially when we learn more about him. Neither Pyne nor Georgaris attempted to rectify this deficiency. Also, the mysterious Muslim women are superfluous. I wonder if their bit wound up on the cutting-room floor.

The film contains an unmistakable cynical tone. As much as it's clearly an indictment of big business' control of politics, it also denounces our leaders' insistence on keeping the public on edge with terror alerts. And as Senator Shaw points out, "The assassin always dies. It's necessary for the national healing."

But after maintaining its cynicism for much of the film, it comes apart completely at the end. Demme and his writers cop out with a pointless and weak denouement. That gunshot you hear is Demme shooting himself in the foot.

It's almost as if they gave in to appease some mindless preview audience or dimwitted studio hack. Or, maybe they envisioned it just like this. Given my admiration of Demme, I'd like to think otherwise. Hope I'm right.
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Manchurian Update
jon.h.ochiai6 September 2004
I have not seen the original John Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate", which is considered one of the best political thrillers ever made. So it was curious that Jonathan Demme (a great director whose previous work included "The Silence of the Lambs") chose to remake the "The Manchurian Candidate". Still basing the story on the novel by Richard Condon, and the 1962 screenplay by George Axelrod, screen writers Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris have updated the Cold War political thriller to the global nuclear terrorism threat on our homeland, and introducing the clandestine presence of a ubiquitous corporation like Manchurian Global. Demme along with reinventing a contemporary storyline, assembled a powerful cast, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Liev Schreiber. Streep as Senator Eleanor Shaw, the mother of Vice Presidential candidate, Raymond Shaw (Schreiber), is absolutely powerful and compelling. She is playing against type-- her Eleanor Shaw is a Machiavellian Lady MacBeth. She is ruthless and smart. Streep's performance is awesome.

During the Gulf War Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Schreiber) saved his fellow soldiers when his CO, Maj. Ben Marco (Washington) is knocked unconscious. Shaw receives the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery. Back to the present day, Eleanor Shaw (Streep) imposes her sheer will and brokers the Vice Presidential slot for her son, the War Hero, on her Party's ticket. Eleanor has political ties with the very powerful Manchurian Global corporation. Meanwhile, Maj. Marco is plagued by incoherent memories of what happened in Iraq. Were his memories actually manufactured? His investigation seems to point to brainwashing and a conspiracy. And what is the ultimate goal?

Demme is a good storyteller. He keeps the story taut and paced. He also enlists effective performances from his talented cast. Denzel Washington is good as Marco. He is also playing somewhat against type. His Major Marco is a broken man regaining some of his honor, and he plays it very close to the vest. Marco is a not a charismatic character, but Washington imposes his own force on the character. Schreiber is amazing as Raymond Shaw. Outwardly, he might have played a puppet in an elaborate power play; however, he gives Shaw a strength of character that is riveting with internal conflict. Meryl Streep really steals the movie as Eleanor Shaw. Her performance is so commanding. Even in her ruthlessness and singularity, she can not be dismissed as plain evil, because ultimately her intentions are noble. That conflict embodied in her character makes "The Manchurian Candidate" worth watching.
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This was a TERRIBLE film. Read why did I and others rated it a 1!
surenm31 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers

For anyone who believes this movie was an excellent suspense thriller and a superb have been brainwashed worse than Raymond Shaw.

This film, or more importantly, this screenplay is only the latest entry exemplifying a very alarming trend in major Hollywood suspense thrillers. Most notably, the film `Godsend' came to mind almost immediately after seeing `The Manchurian Candidate' as a prime example of the same flaw, as well as to a lesser extent the films `Training Day' the cryptic Mamet thriller `Heist' and the `Indy' non-Hollywood but equally flawed (and for the same reason) `Cabin Fever.'

What these films have in common is the single major problem with dramatic screenwriting today; the lack of a well-planned, well-executed, well-developed, payoff laden or at all logical third act. For those who may not know what I'm talking about, if you were enjoying `Candidate' quite a bit as I did in the beginning, then felt it slowed down a little and got less scary and weird in the middle, but was still very entertaining, and then at the end took one of the biggest *dumps* (for lack of an expletive) that a bad script can, you've identified the problem too. Think of the terrible plot holes and enormous flaws in the logic of the plot starting about half way through and getting worse and worse till the out-of-nowhere ending. For instance, if these people, Manchurian Global, were able to do this kind of mind control effectively, why would they even have let Ben Marco go back to his normal life, why wouldn't he be as under control as Raymond Shaw all the time? The answer, because then the movie would suck and the story would cease to exist. Much more importantly, at the end, why or rather HOW could Marco fail in his objective to assassinate the president when in every other instance a mind controlled character does what they are told to do? The answer, because then the movie would have ended on a logical, but unfortunate unhappy ending. Is it an accident Marco killed the wrong people, did Manchurian Global give him another order AFTER `Mother' did? If you start thinking about a number of things like this that happened as the film progressed and try and apply logic to them, you'll find yourself quite muddled and confused. You'll be left with snippets of information and jumbled footage and scenes that paint a clear picture that some critical screen elements and scenes you needed to see are in fact completely missing. In addition to the horrendous third act, the general editing of the film was poor, even the opening credits sequence featured unhinged jump cuts and strangely juxtaposed sequences that were jarring at best. This is what happens when an edited film is edited AGAIN, for the wrong reasons, and by the wrong people. It's dumb Harvard MBA Studio Execs using bad box office science to make a BAD movie which tests extremely well with monkeys.

The problem is that what was a good screenplay with several very interesting ideas and great political intrigue was either abruptly finished the way studio executives thought it should be without any concern for logic, story development, or the plot, or it was a major hack job on the third and most important act of the screenplay. The film `Godsend' has this same problem, great first act, okay second act which starts to go bad half way through, and then a TERRIBLE third act and ending which ruined the whole film. `Heist' has a very similar problem, mainly third act related, and the list goes on, including `Cabin Fever' for example, same exact problem: cool idea, starts off great, then the third act comes and SUCKS. `Training Day,' ironically another Denzel Washington film, also has this same problem, a BAD third act where everything starts unraveling the wrong way for no reason at all. On that film I can at least say after hearing from the writers' own mouths at a Q&A that I know they were not to blame, as they had a much different ending in mind originally, then they were told what to change and how to change it.

I urge you, please, DO NOT tolerate this kind of banality or we will as the `mindless' audience will continue to get films marketed on excellent, highly proficient and well-edited trailers as `Candidate' had, high levels of supposed intrigue, and great performances that fall apart like a house of cards the minute a single gust of `logic' is blown by way of the story.

If you left the theatre entertained but unsatisfied, demystified, and feeling unfulfilled by this film and you don't know why, I've had the same dream too, it's not you, and it's not something you missed. Other people seem to think there isn't a problem and that `everything is under perfect control' with this film, but it is not, there are major things wrong here that should have been fixed by any writer or studio executive with half a brain, but instead they were left blatantly exposed, like another huge logic plot hole concerning `Dr.' Noyle and why there were press clippings of him doing things for Manchurian Global and then AT THE SAME TIME press clippings and research saying that he's a known illegal, banned in Western countries certified `mad scientist.' Keep thinking about that one for awhile, or just take some more of your medicine or turn on FOX to hear what MOTHER has to say.
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Senator Streep
filmquestint24 March 2005
The one and only reason to see this new and much weaker Manchurian Candidate is Meryl Streep. The little space allocated to her character makes the film rise to undeserving levels. True, I would pay to see Meryl Streep do the weather but that's quite besides the point. Even so, the memory of Angela Lansbury's performance in the role towers over Meryl Streep's, mostly because the original Frankenheimer's Manchurian Candidte towers over Demme's. What a silly idea, really. To update the story doesn't contribute a thing to the results. No matter how many monitor screens and details about the experiment we're let into. We, quite simply, don't care. We care about the drama of that mother and son. Of the soldier's and their nightmares. But those elements are treated in a sketchy, sluggish way. Frank Sinatra gave a sterling performance in the original and we believed in his torment. Here Denzel Washington floats throughout the film without giving us the chance to connect the dots of his journey. Liev Schriver is a credible Raymond Shaw but the script doesn't help him to go where Laurence Harvey had ventured. After "The Truth About Charlie" I was fearful of what Jonathan Demme (the great man behind "Silence of the Lambs") would do with this classic black comedy but I went to see it anyway, because Meryl Streep was in it and because it was Demme again working with Dean Stockwell after that lovely romp they did together "Married to the Mob" but Stockell's work in Manchurian Candidate, how can I put it? If you blink you miss it. How strange. How disappointing. However, the scenes with Senator Meryl Streep are worth the price of admission.
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Human chocolate "chip" cookie leaves bad taste in washed brain
monstermonkeyhead14 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Egads, what a pile of carp this movie is! So, what exactly was the useless chip in the shoulder supposed to do, as opposed to the chip in the head? And are there more chips in other body parts? And why exactly was Ben Marco magically alive at the end as well as bald after he was killed? Really and truly, I do absolutely love dream-like movies, and don't need everything explained to me, but these useless, lazy plot tangents are just plain dumb. I get the feeling that Demme and crew took some puffs on the stupid pipe to make this movie and thought what they were doing was really cool. Seriously, this is the only explanation that makes sense. On the plus side, somebody needs to put Denzel Washington in a decent movie where he can play crazy. He really was amazing. It's just too bad he was in this movie doing it. Also on the plus side, the DVD special features were more interesting and thought provoking than the actual movie, which is sad. I wish I could brainwash ninety-five percent of this movie out of my head.
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Political thriller with memorable performances , intrigue , thrills and well realized by Jonathan Demme
ma-cortes11 December 2011
Thrilling and chilling film deals with Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) , an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. He served valiantly as a captain in the Kuwait war and his Sergeant, Raymond Shaw, even won the Medal of Honor. Marco has a major problem however, he has a recurring nightmare, one where two members of his squad are killed by Shaw. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiver) is an insufferable man, who came back from the Irak War awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor . Shaw for his part eventually becomes a vice-presidential nominee and has established himself well, despite the misgivings of his domineering mother, Mrs. Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep). Ben Marco has been having nightmares that lead him to believe that the circumstances that led to Raymond getting the medal are not true. However, Marco learns that another soldier (Jeffrey Wright) from the platoon , has had the same nightmare .While his superiors don't think he knows what he is talking about, he is sent on leave . When he goes to see Raymond, he is arrested ,he aware that also has the same dream. When the officers learn of this they decide to give him a chance to find out what's going on . Some very powerful people at Manchurian Global corporation appear desperate to stop him from finding out. Ben Marco have to face off an enemy with even more sinister designs .

Bold political thriller about the mind control of the prisoners Americans in the Irak War dealing with experiments applied to soldiers to modify behavior patterns. Top-notch acting from main cast as Denzel Washington who gives a superbly controlled interpretation as an Irak war veteran who begins to believe that the honored heroics of a former member of his squad may be the product of brainwashing . Furthermore , Liev Schreiver , Kimberly Elise , Jeffrey Wright and John Voight ; mention special to Meryl Streep as mean mother who executes nasty machinations to promote her son's career , she has some moments of real brilliance . The picture packs thrills , suspense , action , intrigue and is quite entertaining . With an excellent script based on a novel by Richard Condon and George Axelrod 1962 screenplay adapted by Daniel Pyne ; it has a splendid narrative rhythm , the film raises a disturbing theory well performed and slickly developed . The movie that leaves you feeling of having a good cinema. The motion picture is compellingly directed by Jonathan Demme ( Silence of the lambs , Philadelphia , Some wild ) . This exciting political paranoia thriller will appeal to Denzel Washington fans .

This interesting film results to be a remake from "The Manchurian Candidate" 1962, with Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw , Angela Lansbury as ambitious mother and Frank Sinatra that only a year later surprised with the the death of President Kennedy , directed John Frankenheimer a producer for its realization, appeared excited Frank Sinatra with a script of "The Manchurian Candidate," which could have a role as an officer of the bunch of prisoners Americans, Sinatra was formed as co-producer and introduced the idea before the president of "United Artists" , this film was rereleased theatrically in 1987.
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Limp and lackluster
rogerdarlington22 November 2004
The 1962 version of "The Manchurian Candidate" - starring Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey - caught the conspiratorial mood of the time when so many Americans saw a commie round every corner. The current 'war of terror' might have seemed like an apposite time to attempt a remake. I've been a fan of Denzel Washington since he played Steve Biko in "Cry, Freedom" and I regard Meryl Street as the finest actress of her generation, so the chance to see the two starring together for the first time was an attractive one. Since I'm a political animal, the vehicle of a political thriller appeared to add to the attraction. But Jonathan Demme's remake of John Frankenheimer's classic, although it has a certain style, is overall a real disappointment. Frankly it is lackluster when it is not simply silly.

Streep gives a bravado performance as the manipulative mother of the Vice-Presidential candidate who is under external control and Washington is always watchable, but Liev Schreiber as the brain-drilled war hero and politician is robotic even when he is not 'activated'. The 'up-dating' of the story to make corporations rather than Communists the enemy is a well-worn theme, ranging from the Peter Sellers' movie "Being There" to the more recent television series "24". What this new version of Richard Condon's 1959 novel tells us is that Americans are no less fearful and paranoid than they were in the Cold War and Hollywood is no better at remakes than it ever was.
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Solid, Topical and Worthy of the Original
sinuous1 August 2004
Manchurian Candidate is far closer to the original than you've probably heard, and even though it's not the exact movie, it hardly could have been.

That the original is truly relevant would count little for modern audiences, who seem to have a hard time drawing parallels from anything out of their memory. One glimpse of black and white, and funky old clothes, and most teenyboppers under the age of thirty are out the door. Since they would only sit through a first run update, it's truly fine that they have one. The wonder is, the update stands up to the original.

It even solves some of the problems of the first. Gone are the vaguely foreign looking actors standing in for Russians and Chinese agents. Gone are the poorly choreographed ju-jitsu moves.

And the new film retains the strengths of the original. Every performance is fine. Liev Schrieber is worthy of Laurence Harvey's original gut kicking performance (though it's Harvey by an 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 damn.) Streep's scenery chewing is frankly, perfect, because unfortunately, really disgusting people actually do exist, and the real ones are impervious to the critique that their behavior is over-the-top. Seen or heard any Fox commentators recently? Streep's Senator may be over-the-top, but the only thing that distinguishes her from the real thing is - surprise - she's only acting.

Make no mistake, both these films are paranoid thrillers, and the overly literal would say of either, "preposterous". But then, the overly literal don't usually get much out of anything that isn't underlined in Business Week with a magic marker. So if you fit in that category, go rent something less threatening.

On the other hand, if you are the nervous type...

The film's style is less dialog laden, it runs more on mood. But it really does kick in all the same places, the same incredible cynicism offset by the thinnest sliver of a wild, earnest Patriotism.
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Are we sure this wasn't directed by some other Jonathan Demme? One who does porn or something?
MBunge11 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of movies rely on the suspension of disbelief in order to make their stories work. The only way this film could have worked is if someone had taken a meat cleaver and cut out my disbelief without using anesthetic. I have seen some stupid ass motion pictures in my time, pitiful excuses for entertainment that were so desolately dumb they would make you question the existence of a kind and loving God. The remake of The Manchurian Candidate might just top them all.

That's because this colossally cretinous disaster wasn't pounded out by some talentless dreamers who scrounged together a few thousand dollars and rounded up a few desperately out-of-work actors to try and make their filmmaking delusions come true. Jonathan Demme made this thing. Trying to put this alongside The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia is like trying to imagine Leonardo Da Vinci taking a break between masterpieces to smear his own feces all over his bedroom walls. The sheer throw weight of idiocy at work here is that shocking.

The remake of The Manchurian Candidate tosses plausibility into a wood chipper, has all the subtlety of stapling your testicles to someone else's leg and shows as much attention to detail as an Alzheimer's patient. This is the kind of movie where it honestly looks like the cast and crew forgot what the film was about while they were making it, changed their approach to the story at least 4 or 5 times and then somebody got hired to try and edit the resulting incoherent bits into something resembling a single story.

I'm pretty much going to give away the story, but…

A. If you haven't already seen the original, you really should. And…

B. This film is not only devoid of any mystery and tells you everything that's going to happen within the first 10 minutes, it then repeats itself over and over to be sure that even single-celled organisms that might be in the audience know what's going on.

Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) is a Gulf War hero whose viciously political mother (Meryl Streep) has maneuvered into being a heartbeat away from the Presidency. The only thing standing in his way is his old commanding officer Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) and his conviction that both he and Shaw were the subject of brainwashing experiments by an evil investment firm that wants to take over the government. In fact, they were brainwashed as part of an dementedly convoluted plan that would have made Rube Goldberg blanch. The same basic stuff is gone over again and again until the movie wraps up by leaping from suggested incest to utterly contradicting it's most fundamental premise.

If I tried to recap all the imbecilic nonsense in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, this review would be longer than the unabridged edition of Stephen King's The Stand. So, let me give you only one example that sums it all up. After Raymond Shaw is named his party's Vice-Presidential candidate, he goes back to his hotel suite. Well, it turns out the people who brainwashed him over a decade ago have set up a sophisticated operating theater in the room next door. They cut a hole in the wall between the two rooms, bring Shaw over and perform some brain surgery on him. And that all happens without anyone in the Secret Service, with the media or on the hotel staff noticing anything. John Edwards can't have a baby momma without the whole world knowing, but Raymond Shaw can get a hole bored into his skull in the midst of the campaign without anyone being the wiser.

There's sooooooo much more to criticize about this movie, but I'm afraid if I go on I'll give myself an ulcer. Watch the original Manchurian Candidate. All copies of the remake should be set on fire.
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Brain dead
Critical Eye UK16 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
One of the finest political satires ever written, Richard Condon's 'The Manchurian Candidate' is a Trojan Horse of a novel, its purpose hidden within the artifice of a meticulously constructed thriller.

Condon chronicles the odyssey of Major Marco, a Korean War veteran who believes that his life, and the lives of his comrades, were saved by Sergeant Shaw in an act of bravery that has, quite properly, made Shaw an All American Hero.

But because bizarre nightmares increasingly suggest that Marco's memory plays him false, he sets out to discover the truth, contending with the fact that Shaw is the step-son of a political puppet whose strings are controlled by Shaw's power-crazed mother.

Shaw, it eventually transpires, has been brainwashed by the Chinese Communists in Manchuria. So have the rest of the unit. The brainwashing was carried out to equip the Communists with a means to one day take over America. Shaw, the ultimate sleeper-assassin, will gun down a presidential candidate. His step-father, the vice-presidential nominee, will make an emotional speech blaming Communism. The speech will fuel a Rightwing backlash that will sweep him and Shaw's mother into The White House.

Fortunately, Major Marco unravels the Manchurian plot. And poor tortured Shaw finally understands that he has been manipulated, hypnotised, and conditioned to such extent that he no longer has the capacity to exercise freedom of choice.

Condon's message is clear.

Politicians will sacrifice any principle in the pursuit of success. But being fundamentally stupid, politicians are ignorant of the dangers their stupidity invites. So those dangers are instead perceived – but shrugged aside -- by shadowy figures who exist behind the politicians, puppet-masters to whom any ideology is worthy of cosmetic embrace so long as it enables them to satisfy their own monstrous vanity.

Thus, the idiot that is Shaw's step-father. Thus, the monster that is Shaw's mother. Thus, Shaw himself, not The All American Hero, but the heroic All American Electorate, sleep-walking its way towards the destruction of everything it once held dear.

An America that could produce a writer like Condon and a book like 'The Manchurian Candidate' is America at its best, for such a novelist, and such a novel, could only have sprung from a society with the wit to think, the vision to see, and the ability to reason.

An America that could render Condon's masterpiece so beautifully on screen is also America at its best, for in the hands of director John Frankenheimer and legendary screenwriter George Axelrod, and with powerhouse performances by Frank Sinatra as Marco, Laurence Harvey as Shaw, Angela Lansbury as Shaw's mother and James Gregory as the deranged politician, 'The Manchurian Candidate' of 1962 was, and so remains, movie-making at its finest.

And now we have "The Manchurian Candidate" version two.

And director Jonathan Demme and screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris.

And it is not merely that this is very possibly the worst American film of living memory, a cheap conceit so utterly defeated by the consequences of its own larceny that the incoherence of its narrative is matched only by the ineptitude of its writing and direction.

No. What's worse is that we have something that actually got made. In America. And seems actually to have been liked by a large section of the audience. In America.

Gone from Manchurian 2 is the politician made to dance by a master behind the scenes. Gone, therefore, is the puppet master, leaving Shaw's mother with no rational explanation for her actions. Gone, too, is Shaw the tortured Everyman, and with him the entire point of the original fable. Instead, and in so complete a misapprehension of character and purpose that it's no wonder Denzil Washington looks confused throughout, Marco assumes the assassin's role.

Finally, gone is Manchuria, and Communism, the devices – which is all they were: 'The Manchurian Candidate' is no more about the Cold War and Communism than 'Gulliver's Travels' is about foreign holidays – the devices via which Condon warned of the dangers to liberty that await when individuals are so manipulated that they bring upon themselves the very fate they've been most anxious to avoid.

But because the purpose of Manchurian 2 is to profit from Manchurian 1 the makers can't actually junk that, so produce in its stead The Manchurian Something or Other Corporation, run by The Most Powerful People In The World, employing A Mad Scientist from South Africa. . .

Manchurian 2 isn't the first case of moronic movie-making. And it certainly won't be the last. But it certainly ranks high amongst the most dishonest, and disturbingly so because it begs the question: if rubbish like this can be made in America today, what's next?

"Catch 22" as a cop thriller about baseball? How about "MASH" then, the tale of a potato grower taken over by aliens? "Nashville"? A private eye who composes country music in between solving murders.

Never mind the talent that conceived and the intellect that drove those originals. And never mind the stories, either: those plots, they're all much, much too deep for today's movie-goers.

Let's just take the title instead. Pretend it's a remake. Then sit back and let the money roll in from an audience whose collective brain has been so conditioned by the mind-numbing pap of so much in contemporary culture that it can no longer tell the difference between what's good and what's bad, what's valuable and what's worthless.

In which respect then, maybe Demme, Pyne and Georgaris have bettered the stellar combination of Condon, Frankenheimer and Axelrod.

They've shown that Raymond Shaw is no longer a fictional character way out in a mythical Communist China, but a real live brain-dead human being now being serially replicated to the point that it's sitting in a movie theatre near you. . .
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Not up to the Original
mtulipan17 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The new Manchurian Candidate seems silly in comparison with the original, though the caliber of actors and director should've made it a slam dunk. A lot of then blames goes to the screenwriters with their constant hit-you-over the head background chatter (constant terror attacks, etc) and overwhelming clichés. But the biggest howler has to be election day, where a pivotal scene takes place in an elementary school. With students. Hello, it's ELECTION DAY. Schools are closed. To me this is a fire-able offense. And then there is the awful soundtrack, the silliness of the plot- how does Denzel get constant access to a VP candidate anyway who is always in NY or DC, and tacky direction. Kimberly Elise is a disaster, all scowls and Denzel just tries to hard. Streep should've chewed more scenery. And how is she in the same political party as her son & his running mate since she's basically a right-wing Republican while they are bleeding heart Dems? Besides the election day howler, there's this: the election apparently takes place days after the convention, not months as it does in real life. Sloppy plotting is inexcusable and poor direction from an academy award-winning director is just unpardonable.
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Nice Running-Mate to the Original "Candidate"
Placemat2 January 2005
After achieving only so-so results in reworking an old classic with the timid "The Truth About Charlie," director Jonathan Demme confidently updates "The Manchurian Candidate." Here he prevents the viewer from being distracted into keeping active count of the differences between his film and the original; the viewer can relax and watch an "original" film from the beginning. Demme immediately establishes his own distinctive approach: Bring characterization to the foreground. The original was compelling mainly due to its novel and intricate plot, but the acting was no-frills. Demme and his actors -- Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber (and even minor players like Jeffrey Wright) -- create characters that are fleshed-out and human. They are far from the chess pieces of the original and thus better draw us into the film, offering the viewer an emotional entry point and a rooting human interest from beginning to end. While not superior to the original -- conspiracies in of themselves simply have lost their ability to shock these days -- the new "Candidate" achieves its own success by being a rare thriller: one that is emotionally moving.
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=G=24 December 2004
"The Manchurian Candidate (2004)" is a par knock-off of the 1962 classic adapted from the same novel with the usual upgrades and contemporary tweaks. Sporting a good cast and a somewhat cluttered screenplay, the film tells of the plight of a Desert Storm vet (Washington) whose dreams tell a story of what happened to his platoon in Kuwait quite different from the historical account of record with ramifications reaching deep into a U.S. presidential election. A little bulky at two hours, this suspense/drama flick waxes in convolutions and intrigues all the while dangling the "dreams or reality?" question before the audience. With par murmurs from critical corners and mixed commentary from the public in general, this three star flick is probably worth a look for fans of the players or anyone into political thrillers, etc. (B)
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Evil Corporations Behind the Gears of Power.
nycritic16 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's very tricky to do a remake of a well-known movie which has gone into the history of film as one of the greatest political satires of all time because the film maker runs the risk of having it compared to the original. Which means measuring up. In the 30s and 40s remakes were even more common given the fact that technology was advancing and if a B film could be remade into a much better version of itself, then why not. Such were the cases of the second film versions of THE MALTESE FALCON and A STAR IS BORN, whose first versions are good, but dated, and whose remakes have become the stuff of cinema legend. But when remaking those much better known versions in the 70s for a third time, one can see just how inferior the resulting movie turned out to be.

In the case of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, when it became picked as Jonathan Demme's next follow-up to THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE (itself an updated version of CHARADE) there was much speculation among those who know the story as to who would play Mrs. Iselin, Raymond Shaw, and Ben Marco. Once Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep were announced as principal actors, speculations became even stronger: Denzel could be seen as the tortured Marco, but would Streep, for all her perfectionism in acting, be able to convince as Mrs. Iselin (now dubbed Mrs. Shaw)? No one had ever seen her play a character that evil and I could only assume it was the challenge to prove that she could. She would be up against a role Angela Lansbury had made her own.

On viewing this version, less a remake than a reworking (it is its own film), I was surprised in a good way. All of the actors measured up and the film is definitely stylized in Demme's lush, sometimes surreal style. Out was the pitch-black humor present in the first version, in was the heightened paranoia that at times seemed to want to bleed right off the screen. A conspiracy stemmed from Communism gave way to corrupt corporations -- something which is more in touch with today's current events. Out, too, were the playing cards from the first, in were dermal microchips used to manipulate the mind. Where both films become joined is in the depiction of the inhuman violence that soldiers were forced to inflict on each other in order to assure they would turn into killing machines, and at times, some of Demme's sequences had a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS quality to them.

Demme does take his own liberty in changing plot elements in his version. Rosie in the first movie only suggested as much about her enigmatic character; Kimberly Elise's role, in obeyance of these more feminist times, gets to do more than just suggest: she does, first in a submissive way, but progressively dominant. Her role determines that every conspiracy has its own counter-conspiracy.

Speaking of Mrs. Shaw, if I had any doubts about Streep with all her accolades I was proved wrong: having her play less of an overt monster and more of what we see every day -- a tough female politician with a soft voice -- makes her equally terrifying: Streep models her from a variety of sources ranging from Condoleeza Rice to Hillary Clinton, and in her short yet powerful performance she makes you know who she is and what she is capable of (she is on screen for less time than Lansbury was in the first version but you never forget her).

The men are no less forgettable: Liev Schreiber has the difficult role of the puppet able to do horrible things and being propelled to the spotlight and in many ways is similar to Lawrence Harvey. Washington's Ben Marco has a helplessness that lacked in Sinatra's portrayal; his broken man is a far cry from Sinatra's cocky Italian who recovers too fast. Washington makes us know that such things always haunt the person -- seeing his home in disarray, his life in shambles, looking like a man who is about to lose it at any moment as he sees another soldier (Jeffrey Wright) who suspects he was also a guinea-pig die (or be terminated) and loses Shaw's friendship. It's here that the emotional weight of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE becomes his story: he is alone in a world of nightmares, trying to make a dim sense of things, having to do the ultimate act of violence.
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Even Creepier Than the Original
Sargebri7 August 2004
The original version of this film was a very disturbing film due to the fact that it was at the height of the cold war and that it was during the time when America and the world faced its greatest crisis in the Cuban Missile Crisis and due to the fact that one short year after the original was released, President Kennedy was assassinated.

The main difference between this film and the original was that the original villains were the Communists and the villains in this film is big business. The Manchurian Corporation pretty much could be seen as stand-ins for not only Halleburton, but also could be seen as a stand in for many other corporate entities that pretty much want to wield influence in our government.

Another way this film works is as a strong psychological thriller. You pretty much have the troops brainwashed much as they were in the original, only it is more technologically based. However, the thing that really made this film as creepy as it was, was the relationship between Raymond and his mother. In the original, Raymond's mother was nothing more than a manipulative harpy who would stop at nothing to make sure she and her husband became the next president. However, in this version the film goes even farther by even implying that Mrs. Shaw (Mrs. Iselin in the original) almost has an incestuous obsession with her son. This is what really distinguishes this film from the original.

This definitely is one of top thrillers of the year.
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{Cue brainwashed monotone} The Manchurian Candidate is the smartest, bravest, warmest, most selfless movie I've ever seen in my life
Danimal-714 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a ghastly abomination, the movie-world equivalent of desecrating a corpse. You don't need to see the Frankenheimer original (which was pretty good, if not the classic it's sometimes made out to be) to see that this movie is garbage. Most obscenely, The Manchurian Candidate is routinely praised as "smart," when in fact it is a 129-minute nonstop insult to the viewer's intellect, as well as to whatever artistic sensibilities he or she has.

The story follows Denzel Washington's Bennett Marco, who is kidnapped along with his entire squad of U.S. infantrymen during the first Gulf War, a remarkable trick somehow pulled off single-handedly by his unarmed guide, who is evil because he works for a private contractor called Manchurian Global. Manchurian Global then uses Advanced Technology to brainwash them all, including the squad leader Sgt. Raymond Shaw, into machines who will kill their own comrades – or consent to be killed by them – without hesitation. Seventeen years later, Shaw's mother maneuvers him into running for Vice-President of the United States, his sole qualification being his fictitious war heroism, which is based on false memories implanted in him and his squad during the brainwashing. Manchurian Global leaves Marco alive, apparently because they want their evil plot foiled, which Marco proceeds to do.

The idiocies that ensue are mind-boggling. I almost tore out my hair screaming WHY?

1. WHY does Senator Jordan advertise his knowledge of the coup plot to the plotters, while doing nothing to protect himself?

2. WHY does Raymond Shaw drown the Senator with his bare hands in broad daylight (had Jordan been so much as carrying a pocket pistol, he could have defended himself)?

3. WHY does Jocelyne wade up to her father's murderer so he can drown her too, instead of calling 911 for help?

4. WHY does Manchurian bother implanting chips in Marco's and Shaw's shoulders, when it can control them equally well without the chips?

5. WHY doesn't Marco pull out the drainpipe trap to recover the chip he's dropped?

6. WHY isn't Marco arrested and imprisoned when he slugs his interrogator?

7. WHY doesn't Shaw press charges against Marco when Marco bites him?

8. WHY am I watching this movie?

The ninth "why" is, "why does anyone consider this movie intelligent?" Doubtless, because it is transparently aimed at the crew of nitwits and fanatics that have run most of the U.S. government since 2001. For supporters of the American right wing, movies like this are a minor irritant at most. But for its opponents (and I am certainly one), this film is an infuriating example of the intellectual feebleness of the art world's resistance against the sectarian, paranoid, and authoritarian currents sweeping America.

Rating: A million trillion zeros!

Recommendation: What do you mean, the original is better? Hara-kiri would be better!
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Save Your Money and Rent the Original
SandyZ713 November 2004
After reading good reviews I was expecting something other than this totally awful movie. The dark menacing atmosphere of the 1962 film with Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury remains

one of the best political thrillers reinforced by superb acting and the use of black and white photography.

The remake has lifeless muddled performances. Streep did not come across as believable and lacked the delightful viciousness portrayed by Lansbury. Washington provides a weak DeMarco versus one of Sinatra's best roles.

The so-called plot is completely unbelievable - Did they think they were doing a "Matrix" or a "Zombie" Film?

There are so many holes it looked like Swiss Cheese. Save your money and rent a DVD of the original.
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A mustache on the Mona Lisa
Otto_Partz_97326 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I went in expecting to be disappointed; the 1962 version is one of the top ten American films, ever. But good God, how could you take such treasure and waste it so utterly?

The original, although dressed as a political thriller (and thrilling it is, and smart, startling) is, at it's heart, a love story. The relationship between Raymond & Josie is developed delicately, reflecting its fragile nature and Raymond's inability to give himself to it fully. It finally comes to fruition and then it is then destroyed, wantonly, in one of cinema's most harrowing moments.

Demme and his writers negate this completely; there is no love story here. There is no tragedy in Raymond Shaw and because of this, no sympathy for him from the viewer. There is no heart here, at all.
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Never a dull moment
fuzzypeace28 December 2004
This movie is an excellent choice if you enjoy a well-acted, well-directed mystery/thriller story. I found myself thoroughly engaged and not once did my attention waver. Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep are all excellently cast. Their acting is flawless.

The title, The Manchurian Candidate, is puzzling for much of the movie then begins to become clearer as the story unfolds. The setting is 2004 and the plot involves not only consequences of the 1991 Gulf War but the political arena as well. It is especially interesting in the post 9-11 era in which we live.

Just remember, it's only fiction....or is it?
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