The Manchurian Candidate

This movie was wonderful, frightening, emotionally provocative and politically charged … and I loved every minute of it*. It not only has the knockout lead talent of Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Jon Voight and Liev Schrieber, but includes an ensemble cast that will have you going “Hey it’s that guy” every ten minutes (at least when you’re not trying to figure out the next plot twist).

The individual performances are the big highlight of the film. Washington delivers his usual brilliance in the unusual package of the paranoid-driven Captain Ben Marco, ex-Army Ranger who has one dream, one nightmare of what really happened. Schrieber delivers the performance of his life as lifeless political puppet Raymond Shaw. Jon Voight plays one of the straighter men of the movie, but there is a lot of internal work going on and I applaud him for making the character as complex as it was. And Streep takes the power-hungry female character she was given and kicks it up to Hillary’s level as Senator Eleanor Shaw, Raymond’s domineering puppet-master mother.

The movie’s story revolves around a presidential election, say this presidential election** and a conspiracy that stretches from the Senate to three misplaced days of a botched reconnaissance mission in Kuwait just before Desert Storm and from the power seats of the Democratic National Convention** to the coffers of the world renowned Manchurian Global. As with all thrillers, the villains are obvious, but how they did it is the burning question. Beautiful cinematography and artful directing drew me in deeper while the taunt screenplay ran me ragged. By the end of the movie I was not only emotionally worn out, but I wanted to read the constitution. More specifically the 25th (and actually the 20th) amendment. I also couldn’t sleep for several hours afterwards. They don’t call it a thriller for nothing. Mostly it was the portrayal of Washington’s paranoia (wash your face and suddenly there’s a doctor in the mirror behind you but you turn around and he’s gone or stare at someone’s face and watch a bullet hole materialize on their forehead and slowly dribble blood), but it was also a relatively early scene where Schrieber gets brain surgery. It was the first time I’d ever actually seen the procedure and it kind of creeped me out. I mean, I’d heard of brain surgery and situations where drilling a hole in the skull relieved internal pressure, but to actually see it…<shudder>…it was creepy. Not to mention all of the Islamic women with the lines all over their faces. Actually it wasn’t the lines, it was just the intensity with which they stared at the camera. And they were only on screen for maybe five minutes.

Debuting at number 3 behind The Village and The Bourne Supremacy, it went on to make a current domestic gross of $49 million. That’s not too encouraging for a movie that cost 115 million ($80-production, $35-marketing), especially with no overseas releases.

None the less, The Manchurian Candidate is a compelling argument for the abolishment of the modern liberalism movement and big business supporting politics but…here’s the twist…we can’t do anything about either of them. AHHHHHHHHHHHH! No, seriously, it’s an amazing remake packed with political relevance and amazing acting. Now if only I knew what the hell the original talked about. Maybe I should watch it…

* God bless Mel Brooks. “Christmas came early to [the theatres] and guess who they stuffed in our stockings? [Hillary Clinton].”

** Of course, it is never explicitly stated, so this is all rumors and conjectures. I started with nightmares, rumors and conjectures is a giant leap forward.

± Okay, time-out. I want to say the movie takes place in 2008, but I’m not sure. The photos could say 2008, or they could be at least a year old and say 2003. If the movie takes place in 2004, then my whole theory about them being Republicans goes to shreds, because no political party tries to replace their incumbent, they just pick him up as their candidate. Wait, now I can turn this whole thing into a left wing conspiracy. YES!

Leave a Reply