Jonathan Demme’s remake of the 1962“Manchurian Candidate” weaves a new tale of governmentconspiracy. Its relevance to the current state of affairs in America ischilling.
Layers of suspense accumulate as Captain Bennett Marco(Denzel Washington) uncovers more and more about his brainwashing ordealduring the Persian Gulf War. A member of that captured platoon, Sgt.Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), has now moved into politics with the helpof his mother (Meryl Streep). For those who saw the original,Demme’s final plot twist is an interesting alternativeending.
The film’s thrilling cinematography makes up forits sometimes disconnected plot. Raymond Shaw’s enchantment isexperienced more readily thanks to computer-generated material.It’s like being lightheaded: your ears drone, other sounds echo,and everything is white and sparkly. Although Laurence Harvey’sstony-faced trance in the black-and-white original was equallycompelling, it lacks the submerged sensation theatergoers seektoday.
Denme’s only undeniable fault is that he tries toohard to accommodate the Frank Sinatra classic. He blatantly tosses inlines that had underlying significance in the original, but lose theircharm here. Anachronisms are tedious and detract from mainobjectives.
The original title could also have been scrapped. Theallusion to Halliburton is evident, but the level of fear that shouldhave been associated with it was imperceptible. Fire-tongued EleanorShaw (Streep) is a more imposing figure than the supposedly oppressiveManchurian Global.
The film’s political nuances arepervasive. Raymond Shaw is the presidential challenger stumping a wealthgap while unknowingly being controlled by an international conglomerate.The film has enough politics to satiate Democrats, Republicans andIndependents alike. Furthermore, Demme successfully translates Cold Warterror into plain-old terrorism terror. Some may leave the theaterexhausted and feeling like they’ve just watched two hours of FoxNews.
As a whole, the film’s twists and turns,imperfections, and politics make it a fitting addition to election-yeardrama. See for yourself.
This movie is rated R.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.