2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The decline of Jonathan Demme into derivative hackery has often been put down to the curse of Oscar, but it's to be hoped that after his horribly misguided remake of The Manchurian Candidate the only way is up. Even were the original not such a terrific movie, this one would fall on its lack of wit or imagination, not least because of a strikingly poor script by Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris that not only fears what's best in the novel and the original film but also lacks logic, momentum, satire, characterization or, most crucially for a thriller, suspense or even cheap thrills. There are a few positives: the red menace now becomes Haliburton - sorry, Manchurian Global - the romantic interest has a more valid reason for involving herself with an obvious psychiatric case and there is one neat switch in the finale. Unfortunately they're all thrown away, with an epilogue that is truly absurd, while the political commentary is never embedded in the narrative but crudely pasted on in the form of news reports. And is it just me, but why do the hands-on villains have to be Brits? Can any nation have treated their allies in not one but two Iraq wars with such open contempt?
Even on a technical level, at times it's strikingly clumsy, be it the often crude editing, the inane nightmare sequences or the literally unbelievable sound mix (those cheers on the nomination speeches set a new low in credibility). But the biggest problem, along with chronic overlength, is that you never care about anyone in the film. Whereas Laurence Harvey's pathetic cold fish latched onto Frank Sinatra's Marco even though he knew he despised him out of a terrible and desperate loneliness born of self-loathing in the original, Demme and Levine keep the two apart for most of the film, denying both of them the relationships with `normal' characters that highlighted their damaged psyches in the original. Nor are the actors able to draw you in much either. Denzel Washington is on poor form for much of the film until his paranoia takes him over Parallax style. Liv Schreiber fares better, but seems to be channelling Robert Foxworth circa 1978. But the real nail in the coffin is Meryl Streep, an actress who may have heard of subtlety once but has since gone out of her way to avoid it at all costs, giving the worst performance of her career, displaying an unbelievable assortment of ridiculously over the top mannerisms that put you in mind of a drunken Robert Newton playing Widow Twankey in a rundown seaside town's annual Christmas panto. Her every scene is just painful to watch in a rather silly, drawn out film that aspires to be average and almost makes it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2007
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.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2005
Some years ago Robert Redford came out with two movies one after the other. The first was "The Last Castle" and the other was "Spygame". These both were brilliant.
Denzel Washington has joined a prestigious group of people able to pull off the same feat!
Hot on the heels of "Man On Fire" ( that was breathtaking! ) he follows up his performance with "The Manchurian Candidate". The tag line should have been "How do you trust?" The story is about a group of soldiers who return from the gulf war. One of them becomes a presidential candidate after having saved his unit during a firefight and receiving a medal for his heroism. Or did he? Denzel Washington is the unit leader who remembers events out of sequence but his fears are confirmed when the rest of his men experience a disconnection with the events of the firefight. How do you trust when you cannot even trust what you remember?
This is a must for the DVD collection. I look forward to his next movie with anticipation.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2007
Taken just as a film, this is a decent effort. Good performances by the leads (especially Washington, who acts demented enough you know you wouldn't believe him if he told you his story), good script,and good direction.
The film is a remake, and although the characters are intact, Korea has been replaced by Kuwait, and the reasons for the mindwiping have become very 21st century - money.Sinatra withdrew the original from distribution after what happened to Kennedy, and many believe that the assassin of Robert Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, was 'programmed' to do the job, as once it was done he was quite incoherent, and could not remember what he had done. Life imitating art...?
The film touches a raw nerve in that we all know these things are probably possible. The feeling of alienation and fear Washington conveys through the film, may be one we should all share.......
recommended, but be prepared to worry afterwards!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I'm unfamiliar with the original and knew nothing about the story aside from what the title suggested (mind you I had misread it and thought Denzel was going to play a Mancunian politician - must admit to some disappointment there!), so I was somewhat surprised to find a pretty decent espionage thriller which I best describe as a Dead Zone/X Files/Jacobs Ladder/Enemy of the State sandwich. Denzel Washington is turning into a real quality actor as the years go on, and speaking of quality actors, Meryl Streep's character has to be the nastiest, most evil women in cinematic history.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2008
I saw this in the cinema first not realising it was an old film which was a good thing as I was seeing it not knowing what was going to happen but I found it really enjoyable with plenty of twists and turns in the plot. Denzel is hard to beat in the leading role in any film and this was no different.
on 2 March 2015
I'm pleased to see this film is the real thing, the real deal, it's all in there. I was quite surprised how far they went into making the old 60's film story into such a centrally relevant production for our age and modern life.
It's one thing to read about conspiracy theories such as in this film being presented as at the core of modern society in so many ways, but really another thing altogether just to see what some write about, others know, in such a clear way as this. Though the film is always thoughtful, never gratuitious at all, just the recalling, the seeing of the story in this new way in this 2000s production was very visceral in itself to me. It calmed me a great deal, actually.
I know a lot of people can, will and do go to the ends of the earth in order that some people are made to think that every suggestion which is made sure cannot be proven, will seem as possibly ridiculous and tricks of the mind, even to the people who know they experienced them at some points.
In a way, that this film is so effective, and even rare within conspiracy films at presenting what so many people say can be the reality of the world, is really telling. I think, even within really laudable conspiracy films from Three Days of the Condor to Capricorn One and even The Shining (which I see as a symbolic real, cultural conspiracy film), it is really rare for a film to be quite as brave and as forthcoming and free as this remake of The Manchurian Candidate.
The film does have its faults, mainly the bittiness of editing and lack of a more satsifying, perhaps sectioned, linear form. (While at points idiosyncratic editing is also used intentionally as a break from classic conspiracy films showing a simple, clear message, for example in the greenhouse public event scene.)
However, the message and dedication to that is so good and deeply conceived that the faults are not quite enough to detract from the 5 stars out of 5 in Amazon ratings which this film deserves. If there were a percentage rating available, I'd still say this film could be over 90%, maybe even 95%. One of the ways in which it wins success is that it never seeks to make a challenging film, it is always approachable and usually sel-f-explanatory, even if the pacing is too fast at points in the second half of the movie.
It is a longer film than average, and still has to deal with very important points, which are really hard to dramatise in shorter or fewer sequences without losing the impact in portraying their social importance adequately. We don't lose out, though, because the very good acting carries it through.
Though I have been sick of Meryl Streep particularly in the past (also Denzel Washington) and sometimes wondered what on earth happened since the days of the marvelous Sophie's Choice and her performance in Silkwood, she is on top form in this film. While it is true that Streep may now be caricatured as an overbearing social monster played with lashings of ham in numerous films by 2015, the rest of those films are obscured by this as Streep really seizes the potential for the ice cold psychopathy of her character here. Which, indeed, is illuminated as being how things must be in real life with this type of crowd, or worse. Streep's vision is a real message from the angels, therefore, in the elevated context of important, purposeful social drama.
Superb cast, and all the stars are on form even if Meryl Streep at least for me does not have quite the creepiness and haughty style the role of Angela Lansbury as the matriarchal schemer had in the original 1960s version. With a well skilled director of Jonathan Demme's calibre in charge, the omens should have been good. So even allowing for higher technical cinema standards where did this adaptation of the classic Cold War psychological thriller lose it?
The problem seems to be trying to update what is a classic Cold War paranoic thriller novel by Richard Condon to a time when the Cold War is over. The opening credits make it clear the film is indebted to the original novel and script and one is left wondering if this constraint was the undoing of any effective update and major rewrite. What we end up with is a messy and classic US military industrial complex plot of aiming to control the US government by embedding their choice as Vice President, and then belatedly using an additional twist of assassinating the President, to place their man in top position. If all that seems a pretty unoriginal conspiracy plot (and a betrayal of the much smarter original which twisted the family political roles even more bitterly), the whole thing seems to misunderstand it has two key problems with this 21st century version. The first is that such US corporations already have great power in Washington and major roles in US military and US foreign policy activities so one wonders why they would put all that at risk along the lines of the plot outlined here. The second is that the Liev Schreiber character as a man with no personal family beyond his US senator mother would never despite his war record, have survived the level of scrutiny and questioning on his personal life (or lack of it) in making it to the VP candidature.
The result is that after a labyrinthine story plot set up, the whole facade quickly falls apart in the last third despite the high calibre of acting on show here.
Denzal Washington plays an ex veteran who ends up in a conspiracy, involving a corrupt private organisation, and high ranking officials, as flashbacks and brainwashing take a tole on his mental health and as evidence mounts he must prove both to himself and the authorities that his combat unit were brainwashed during the Gulf war.
This background story leads to a conspiracy to get one of the unit elected in Washington many years later, for dubious gains.
Played through present day and flashbacks, this has the opportunity to be a pacey well crafted thriller, that takes into account politics, war, and how governments may try to suppress the masses, through terrorism and paranoia.
Sadly whilst there is Lot's of paranoia, the film is just too long and has moments that really don't tie together in the most ingenious way.
As a remake, it's obvious to update the scenario to a post Iraq/911 setting, playing on the audience insecurities and low moral in government.
In that respect it does achieve its aim.
The big selling points are the cast, Denzal Washington, Meryl Streep, John Voight, and Liev Schreiber all turn in the typical high standard they obviously get employed for, and audiences love. Sadly director Jonathon Demme (Silence of the Lambs) is not quite on all previous form here.
By 2004 when this was released the Jason Bourne franchise was well in swing, and whilst not comparing story structure or pace, they share the same elements of amnesiac assassins, government corruption, paranoia and conspiracy, but whilst Manchurian plays slow Bourne plays fast.
Worth a watch but all involved have done better.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2005
The original Manchurian Candidate was released in 1962 and not only had I not seen it, I hadn't even heard of it.
So, unlike recent releases such as Dawn Of The Dead, The Italian Job and Assault On Precinct 13 I had very little idea what to expect on viewing this film.
What you do get is a fine blend of Jacobs Ladder style paranoia, conspiracy and US Goverment post 9/11 anti-terrorist propaganda.
The assembled cast is second to none, Denzil Washington, Jon Voight, Liev Shreiber are all superb but the star of the show is Meryl Streep as the powerecrazy, control freak mother/Senator Eleanor Shaw:
"Make no mistake, the American people are terrified, they know something's coming, they can feel it"
Remind you of anyone?
A top quality cast, fine performance's and a fairly rivetting plot make The Manchurian Candidate highly recommended viewing.