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Overall Rating
3.72

Awesome: 18.63%
Worth A Look49.02%
Average: 18.63%
Pretty Bad: 12.75%
Total Crap: 0.98%

8 reviews, 54 user ratings


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Manchurian Candidate, The (2004)
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by Jay Seaver

"A good, but not superior, update."
3 stars

Folks who watch movies beyond new releases will have knee-jerk reactions when they hear certain movies are being remade. When I heard Demme was remaking Charade with Thandie Newton and Will Smith (later to be replaced by Mark Freakin' Wahlberg), I immediately thought "stupid idea", although I wound up liking The Truth About Charlie. I did not have the same worries about The Manchurian Candidate.

I like the original movie, but I found it a little dated when I first saw it. Not so much the subject matter (although the remake makes a good decision in making the threat internal rather than external), but the style. The way films were shot and edited in the 1960s meant that the dreams and memories were kind of set off from the rest of the movie, rather than intruding like they could in a modern film. Laurence Harvey also seemed to effete and pathetic.

The remake doesn't really improve on the first adaptation of Richard Condon's novel, but it does different things well. The tension in the first was generated by the idea of sleeper agents, but that sort of xenophobia wouldn't play so well today, either with American audiences or a Hollywood establishment more dependant on international revenue, so the new one works on the increasing instability of protagonist Ben Marco (Denzel Washington).

Also, where Angela Lansbury gave the most commanding performance in the first, there's nobody who really grabs the movie in this one. Meryl Streep is good in Lansbury's role, and outright steals some scenes, but the best performance comes from Liev Schreiber as Raymond Shaw, the title Vice-Presidential candidate. It's a pretty nifty accomplishment, since he's saddled with a script that happily makes him whatever is needed at the time. Here he's a mama's boy, here he's deeply resentful; here he's got to time for Marco, here he seeks Marco out. Schreiber also does a fine job making Shaw standoffish, making the testimonials of his troop to his warmth seem flat-out wrong.

Demme's Candidate glosses over the science-fictional aspects, basically asking the audience to accept that the implants work for mind control, although there don't seem to be any effects when one is taken out. There are a couple more plot holes, too. On the plus side, the flashback scenes are believably hellish without being given any air of unreality, and Demme makes a couple nifty decisions with music, especially during the convention scene, where the song and the action are in direct contradiction to each other. I think the movie might have been better if it had ended there; it suffers from an overlong resolution after the climax.

The 2004 Manchurian Candidate is a good movie, but I don't think it will displace the original. In five years, mentioning the name will once again call to mind the names of Frankenheimer, Sinatra, and Lansbury as opposed to Demme, Washington, and Streep, though the new movie will be worth discussing as it relates to millennial paranoia and election worries. It's a decent diversion, but no substitute for the original.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10268&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/07/04 14:37:52
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell a good remake imho 4 stars
4/04/12 Theodore Roosevelt How did they know in '04 that Rick Santorum would run for president in the near future? 3 stars
1/26/10 Jeff Wilder A fairly decent remake. Demme and cast make it work. 4 stars
7/22/08 the dork knight Pales in comparison to the first 2 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White not as good as the first but well crafted 3 stars
3/19/07 R.W.Welch Less plausible than the original with excessive mumbling. C+ 3 stars
1/31/07 action movie fan dull just like the first 2 stars
7/31/06 Scotty It was alright as a thriller, But I kept comparing it to the original. 3 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley Good thriller. Keeps the attention if unlikely to linger long in the memory. 4 stars
3/11/06 Tanya Denzel is great as always 4 stars
1/16/06 Frank Rountree Well acted, interesting story 4 stars
11/15/05 noops just nothing special... 3 stars
8/12/05 yuko world peace...... 4 stars
4/18/05 Indrid Cold More sophisticated, but less intense than the original. 4 stars
2/17/05 Kathleen4691 Good adaptation of original, updated with new plot twists. 4 stars
2/15/05 Bobby da Squid Excellent acting saves the film from completely slipping into confusing paranoia 4 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Disappointing, didn't live up to the hype, never ties up loose ends. 2 stars
2/11/05 HL Thousands of Better Movies..Thousands Worse. 4 stars
2/05/05 LilyM Well acted, but that's it. Quite boring; it doesn't duplicate the suspense of the original. 2 stars
1/02/05 DM Not as good as the original, but still gripping. 4 stars
12/31/04 Tjalda L. Schiel Another worthless remake 2 stars
12/30/04 Katie Evridge very good thriller. Unexpected ride! 4 stars
12/28/04 efrain radical. 5 stars
11/23/04 alien assassin not as good as the original, but well worth seeing 4 stars
11/05/04 One more paranoid American “and all the while scarlet thoughts, putrid fantasies, and no love” --Louis Auchincloss 4 stars
10/29/04 John Bale Excellent and timely hi-tech remake which does credit to Condons novel. 5 stars
8/25/04 nick2k not bad...a lil slower pace than i expected though 4 stars
8/22/04 joepuzzle The Best Movie So Far of 2004, Truly an Awesome Accomplishment on Every Level 5 stars
8/20/04 Jiz Halliburton is controlling Dick Cheney through his "pacemaker." This movie proves it. 5 stars
8/14/04 psycho dwarf Although thought-provoking, it engenders more confusion than debate. 4 stars
8/14/04 Desperado very good, good drama should have been called the Halliburton Candidate 5 stars
8/14/04 Obi Wan Good movie, not great. Seemed a lil slow sometimes 4 stars
8/10/04 John Larson So so, not all that greta and a bit far fetched. Loses focus and a bit unconvincing. 2 stars
8/08/04 Charlie Have not seen the original but found this very good entertainment. 4 stars
8/06/04 Agent Sands Good credentials, but the original was a bit better. Good POV shots. 4 stars
8/05/04 Mix Master Mason Look for Robyn Hitchcock as a double agent, brilliant. 5 stars
8/03/04 Brad Good movie...but nothing too amazing 4 stars
8/03/04 Sen John Yerkis Iselin I have in my hand 57 reasons why this mess can't hold a candle to the original masterpiece. 1 stars
8/03/04 Betsy Poor imitation of the original, although I enjoyed Streep channelling Hillary 2 stars
8/03/04 Obi Wan Very good film, good performances all around..good ending 5 stars
8/02/04 ownerofdajoint SCARY STUFF ABOUT WARMONGERS AND MILITARY LEMMINGS..A BAD COMBO..DENZEL'S GREAT.. 4 stars
8/02/04 Scott great acting, deus ex Machina ending too fake 3 stars
8/01/04 marvin naiman FASCINATION AND MIND BOGLING 5 stars
8/01/04 Jacobtwotwo Not as nuanced as the original creates same creepy foreboding mood though. 4 stars
8/01/04 M Vallee Excellent - from beginning until the end 5 stars
8/01/04 Ian Definitely a movie to go see with your mother. All BS aside, a twisted, yet intriguing flik 4 stars
8/01/04 BB Essential viewing, great performances by Liev and Denzel--do not miss this one! 5 stars
7/31/04 Uncle Phucker Best movie of the year so far besides Spartan. 4 stars
7/31/04 Titus Nicely done, but a little lacking in places. Don't think about it too closely. 4 stars
7/31/04 arctic Denzel and Meryl can do wrong when it comes to acting 5 stars
7/29/04 NiraliKumar Good version of the original 4 stars
7/28/04 Large Farve Loved it, good suspense. Continuity be damned! 5 stars
7/24/04 Koitus Interesting remake. Had quite a few "disconnects," though. Meryl rocked! 3 stars
7/24/04 Ray Strong and interesting 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  30-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  28-Oct-2004


Directed by
  Jonathan Demme

Written by
  Daniel Pyne

Cast
  Denzel Washington
  Meryl Streep
  Liev Schreiber
  Jon Voight
  Kimberly Elise
  Ted Levine



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