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Overall Rating

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

8 reviews, 54 user ratings

Manchurian Candidate, The (2004)
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by EricDSnider

"It was 2004. ANY candidate would have been better."
4 stars

Jonathan Demme's last remake, "The Truth About Charlie," was a disappointment, but with his retelling of "The Manchurian Candidate," he gets it right. Not that I want to encourage him to keep re-doing other people's movies instead of coming up with his own, but this is a crackling good thriller.

It's even better if you've seen the original. The world is so different today from what it was in 1963 that, even with essentially the same storyline, the new film seems light years away. Comparing the two films is striking. We are more cynical now, more suspicious -- and rightfully so, it sometimes seems. The film matches that perfectly.

This time, Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) is a Persian Gulf War veteran plagued with nightmares and on the verge of insanity; he has met some of his fellow veterans who have already gone off the deep end. In 1991, two men in his unit were killed in an ambush while Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) strove to save the platoon. Shaw was given the Medal of Honor and is now, years later, suddenly the vice-presidential nominee for his party, despite being introverted and quiet and despite Sen. Thomas Jordan (Jon Voight) having been the frontrunner for that position.

Shaw, a senator himself, is the child of senators, one dead and one quite alive, the formidable Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep). Mom has orchestrated most of Raymond's career, pushing him forward when he would rather retreat to the background.

It becomes Marco's theory that something happened in the Persian Gulf, hinted at by flashes of memory he's having. He believes there was hypnosis, and that he and others have been manipulated since then by whoever was behind it. As an audience, we know he's right: We get to see it in action a few times before the full scheme is revealed, always accompanied by an infusion of light and sound effects reminiscent of "The Twilight Zone."

Demme effectively creates an atmosphere of oddness, giving the film an off-kilter feeling appropriate for its characters' disorientation. If the film has a weakness, it is that it has opposition for its characters without giving them an actual villain to fight against, at least for most of the running time. They dread, but they (and we) don't know WHAT they're dreading.

Washington, Schreiber and Streep are all characteristically strong, with Jon Voight and Vera Farmiga (as his daughter, an object of Raymond Shaw's affection) adding nuance to the supporting roles. The political satire is subtle, often funny and alarming simultaneously, and the film never forgets to thrill us.

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originally posted: 08/17/05 17:25:13
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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 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
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  30-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2004



Directed by
  Jonathan Demme

Written by
  Daniel Pyne

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

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