Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
minor plot points revealed!
(I saw this movie quite some time ago so I apologize for the brevity and potential plot description inaccuracies that may result.)
OK, here's something I have to say right off the bat, I've never seen the original Manchurian Candidate. I'm sure I'll watch it one day but that day has not yet come. May of the reviews for this movie compare it to the original and say things like "it didn't need to be remade" or that "this new version is a nice update of the story." Either way it's all meaningless to me because I haven't seen the old one. However, I seriously doubt that Frank Sinatra did a better job than Denzel Washington and Angela Landsbury was more impressive than Meryl Streep. But maybe I'm wrong.
Anyway, this remake tells the story of a group of soldiers who while on mission during Operation Desert Storm, were kidnapped and perhaps brainwashed into thinking that the rich kid in their platoon, Raymond Shaw, acted heroically and saved them all. They were also programmed, Raymond as well, to follow instructions when called upon at a later date. We soon learn that Raymond's mother, a Hillary Clinton type Senator, allowed her son to be brain-zapped by the Manchurian Corporation so that later in life he would be the perfect puppet assassin when placed as Vice President of the United States. At which time he would presumably carry out his mission to kill the president, assume the position, and carry out Manchurian's will.
The parallels to Vice President Dick Cheney and his company Haliburton in this movie are obvious and right on the surface. No attempt at subtlety here.
The film was directed by Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme. Much has been said about how he recaptured the Silence mood here, with Manchurian, but I didn't see it. It's not a bad film at all, but comparing it to Silence of the Lambs is just silly. I think even Demme lucked out with that film and no one will ever be able to replicate it's intensity.
As I said, I did like the movie, but that may have had more to do with the fact that I pretty much love all Denzel Washington movies. Even as an Oscar winner, he's an under-appreciated master actor. Every movie he's in is awesome because he's in it.
If there was anything that I didn't like about the movie it was that the bad guys didn't activate the brainwashed troops enough. They took all this time showing that they were all basically remote controlled assassins but they hardly ever used them for anything. It might have been more exciting if they flipped their switches every now and then.
The actors are all great. Denzel, as said, can do no wrong so he was brilliant as the brainwashed, but starting to realize what's going on, Ben Marco. It was kind of new to see him in a role where he's the victim and not really in control of his actions and destiny. Meryl Streep is obviously brilliant as Raymond's mother. She employs just the right amount of creepy love for her son combined with evil ambition. She might have gone a bit over the top with her Hillary Clinton impression but that can be forgiven. Liev Schreiber is fine as Raymond Shaw. I don't know why but I've never really like him. Maybe because his name is Liev? John Voight is good in a supporting role as the dissenting elder Senator who would block Raymond's ascension if he can. And finally, Al Franken has a small cameo as a TV Commentator.
I did like this movie. It was an interesting mystery thriller and worth watching. It can definitely wait to be viewed on DVD. Check it out when it hits Blockbuster or Pay-per-view or NetFlix. The Manchurian Corporation commands you!