Pros:Every last one of the performances, fast-paced, sporadic humor.
Cons:Not a whole lot of personality, controversial in the light of current events.
The Bottom Line: Very much interested in the original Manchurian Candidate now...
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Having gone into The Manchurian Candidate with no prior knowledge of any original version, I had no clue what to expect. Except maybe some political breastfeeding and a whole lot of war-related exposition, which is not too far off the mark. But to borrow from another recent blockbuster, there's more going on here than us and them.
Liev Schreiber is Raymond Shaw, a badass congressman who once shot up a bunch of Iraqi helicopters back in the Gulf War in 1991, thereby saving his group of soldiers and snagging the coveted Medal of Honor. It just so happens that Denzel Washington (as Ben Marco) was among this group. Thirteen years later, Marco is still having weird dreams about what really happened out there during that three-day "rescue". Turns out some of the other guys have the same problem.
The result is like a more action-packed, more suspenseful, but less personal Conspiracy Theory. Through twist and turn after twist and turn, we follow Raymond Shaw's rise to fame via his big bad mother (Meryl Streep) who is also a Senator. But the more Marco presses on about his dreams, the more we (and Shaw) learn about what really happened.
Throughout this movie, we get tons of fifteen-foot faces, some menacing cinematography, and a lot of Denzel Washington looking directly at the camera. Liev Schreiber gives speeches about winning, Meryl gives speeches about the bullsh!t, and Denzel gives speeches about connections deep down inside. Characters experience weird mood swings, Schreiber cries, and Denzel almost falls in love with the checkout girl. And the beginning is like a montage of the same thing over and over again, with different rock songs playing each time, very peculiar. If this all sounds kind of convulted, well I guess it is.
You just can't beat Denzel. He teeters between frustration and uncertainty and forced ambivalence, but not without ripping into the occasional uncooperative person. At times, he also comes off as humorous perhaps without meaning to. At one point, while he's on a train, Ben Marco cracks a smile, even though he's in the most pathetic mood, and several of us burst into laughter.
Liev Schreiber has come a long way since the Cotton days. It's obvious his heart was in this one. He instills the perfect dose of subtlety (and then some, for good measure) into the character of Raymond Shaw. Raymond is socially clumsy, to the point of keeping him out of a relationship for fifteen years, but it also makes his overly assertive press statements all the more surprising.
Meryl Streep is the hyperactive, obsessive mother of Raymond, but her agenda is not entirely unfathomable. I like the complexity of her character, definitely a step up from her standoffish role in Adaptation. Kimberly Elise who played Denzel's wife in John Q plays a mostly useless role as Marie the "almost love interest", but a cute, lively role is certainly not unwelcome here. The "help me or shoot me" scene she has with Denzel is nothing like the trailers made it up to be, though. Jeffrey Wright pulls a Chris Cornell in his vividly disturbed (and disturbing) portrayal of a man who's still consumed by his dreams, shocked and in denial.
The Manchurian Candidate is quite entertaining, even though it will strike some as biased and others (like myself) as having very little personality. But considering my relative "dumbness" in political matters, I'm somewhat surprised that I actually remember thinking "Man, this is good" several times throughout the movie. And that's pretty rare.
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Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older