The Manchurian Candidate


Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

The Manchurian Candidate
"Jonathan Demme directs with utter simplicity."

Perhaps I'm not the best person to be reviewing this movie. I have never seen the 1962 version and have no reference points for my critique. Now I know you're all going nuts because I haven't seen John Frankenheimer's original, yet I called his movie Ronin one of the best ever, so cut me some slack here.

Jeez, I thought a Manchurian was a name for someone from Manchester. THAT'S how little I know of this. So I'm afraid I'll have to judge the film entirely on its merits.

Copy picture

With Hollywood rapidly running out of ideas, remaking everything and giving us sequels to films that don't require any, you'd think that a remake of The Manchurian Candidate would be a rather obscure choice. As it is, the filmmakers have exploited the war on terror and the conflict in Iraq as an excuse to make the story relevant.

Denzel Washington, of whom I am not a big fan, as he plays the race card far too often, plays Bennett Marco, a man with a first name for a last name and a last name for a first name. But that's the least of his probs. Back in Gulf War One his platoon was ambushed by the Iraqis and in a hopeless fire fight his second in command, Raymond Shaw (a cold, blank and emotionless Liev Shreiber), miraculously saved them. Or did he? Marco isn't so sure. He has flashbacks and dreams of rather different events and is called paranoid and delusional whenever he takes his story to his superiors.

After meeting a member of his old squad with the same nightmares, he really begins to suspect something is up. Thus begins his investigation into paranoia and conspiracy so deep and far-fetched it's hard to get a grasp onto it. Apparently the massive company Mach Global - think Richard Branson, only evil-er - is into brainwashing and hack doctors. Ooooohhhh! Scary stuff!

Jonathan Demme directs with utter simplicity. He may have been responsible for the modern classic The Silence Of The Lambs, which I didn't particularly like, but, for material so twisted, a little bit of style would not have gone amiss.

Okay, I don't want it to look like the epileptic seizure that was Washington's last film, Man On Fire, but The Manchurian Candidate remake is basically a series of still photos. The cinematography and framing is flat, the story long and boring, the dialogue too confusing and lifeless and many questions are left unanswered.

Meryl Streep gives a spirited performance, as Shaw's dragon-lady mother, and will surely earn an Oscar nomination. It's the only real effort, or bright spark, in the entire movie.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2004
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The Manchurian Candidate packshot
Gulf War soldiers are brainwashed.
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Director: Jonathan Demme

Writer: Daniel Pyne, Dean Georgaris, based on the 1962 screenplay by George Axelrod, based on the novel by Richard Condon

Starring: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Wright, Kimberley Elise, Jon Voight, Ted Levine, Miguel Ferrer, Bruno Ganz

Year: 2004

Runtime: 129 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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