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The Manchurian Candidate
2004 - R - 130 Mins.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Producer: Jonathan Demme, Scott Rudin
Written By: Daniel Pyne, George Axelrod, Dean Georgaris
Starring: Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep, Jon Voight, Kimberly Elise
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site:

Just going for a swim...
Powerful acting carries this political thriller remake as a new generation of moviegoers becomes acquainted with ‘The Manchurian Candidate.’ With this remake Paramount Pictures has basically atoned for their earlier summer haphazard redoing of ‘The Stepford Wives,’ as once again after last summer’s ‘The Italian Job,’ the studio relies on remakes to bring in the summer crowds.

Lieutenant Raymond Shaw (Live Schreiber) is a war hero turned politician, a man guided by a domineering mother (Meryl Streep), who has also made a career out of politics. She has now pushed her son into the U.S. Presidential Race as a Vice Presidential candidate. Although a part of him objects, he seems to lack the will to go against his mother’s wishes. What no one knows though is that there is a widespread conspiracy going on behind the scenes, something his mother is suspected to be heavily involved in. Bennett Marco, (Denzel Washington) a man who was present on the battlefields of Kuwait when Shaw gained his status as a war hero, suspects intimately of the conspiracy yet comes across as a lunatic when trying to prove it to others. Marco decides that in order to get others to believe him he must search for and find concrete evidence. His subsequent investigation leads him on a mission that could uncover some terrible truths, if he survives it.

First and foremost, ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ is an acting showcase. As the increasingly paranoid Bennett Marco, Denzel Washington is superb. One sympathizes with his plight and willingly goes along on his wild goose chase of an investigation; a key point because the film as a whole hinges on this factor. Perhaps even better is Liev Schreiber who not only portrays the evil, maniacal side of a person ruined by an awful mother, but a second facet of his personality makes Shaw almost begrudgingly likable; not an easy feat but one the film necessitates. As his mother, Streep gives it her all in a performance that makes it crystal clear she is savoring a juicy role. Also of note are Jon Voight as a competing candidate and Kimberly Elise as Marco’s new female acquaintance.

The film is further aided by a slick look and pace brought by director Jonathan Demme, who, for my money, hadn’t made a good film since ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ He brings a sharp eye for visual storytelling and camera angles that further evoke the paranoia felt by Washington’s Marco. All of these elements were lacking in his last film, a remake of ‘Charade’ titled ‘The Truth about Charlie,’ a truly abysmal effort starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton.

The film though is not without a few problems. The film needlessly drags out the final scene; something that quickly becomes a foregone conclusion long before actually occurring. Also, the viewer may wish to know a little more about the reasoning behind the conspiracy and the players involved in it.

All of that though may be nitpicking because ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ is one fine film and a remake that for once does justice to the original.
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

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