The Manchurian Candidate (2004) is a English movie. Jonathan Demme has directed this movie. Denzel Washington,Liev Schreiber,Meryl Streep,Kimberly Elise are the starring of this movie. It was released in 2004. The Manchurian Candidate (2004) is considered one of the best Drama,Mystery,Sci-Fi,Thriller movie in India and around the world.
When his army unit was ambushed during the first Gulf War, Sergeant Raymond Shaw saved his fellow soldiers just as his commanding officer, then-Captain Ben Marco, was knocked unconscious. Brokering the incident for political capital, Shaw eventually becomes a vice-presidential nominee, while Marco is haunted by dreams of what happened -- or didn't happen -- in Kuwait. As Marco (now a Major) investigates, the story begins to unravel, to the point where he questions if it happened at all. Is it possible the entire unit was kidnapped and brainwashed to believe Shaw is a war hero as part of a plot to seize the White House? Some very powerful people at Manchurian Global corporation appear desperate to stop him from finding out.
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(SPOILERS for both the original and the remake) This was not a bad movie on its own terms. Good cast, stylish direction by Jonathan Demme (though now in his trademark style: huge close-ups of people looking right at the camera), some nice suspense. But everything and I mean everything that made the original 'Manchurian Candidate' an unforgettable classic has been forcibly removed or revamped into dumbed-down mediocrity for our sped-up, sound-bite-ridden, politicized times. Part of the problem, indeed , is that we can't make a 1962 movie today. We're way in the future now, and the quiet, rather straightforward simplicity of the original could not be put on the screen today (Van Sant tried it with his shot-by-shot 'Psycho' and it didn't work.) So instead of beginning (after a brief prologue) with a brilliant credit-sequence and David Amram's deeply sad and aching score, the new one begins with a herky-jerky burst of loud rock music and a helter-skelter barrage of images of war. It's 2004, kids, enough of that quiet emotional crap. From the start, the original had emotional resonance via its music and credit portraits of the pensive lead players alone. From the start, the new movie has no emotional resonance at all. The biggest shock is how the emotion has been sucked out of the story, entirely. In the original, when Raymond killed the Senator and his daughter, the daughter was Raymond's new wife, the woman he deeply loved, the only person in the world who might possibly save Raymond from the pre-programmed horror of his life. Raymond's killing of those two people was the turning point of the entire film and filmed by John Frankenheimer as a dazzling Wellesian cinema sequence with the symbolic wit of the film's dark comedy (the milquetoast liberal Senator dies shot through a carton of milk, his bleeding heart bleeding the milk of human kindness.) All gone now in the remake's bizarre attempt to merge the murder scene with Raymond's great 'jump in the lake' scene from the original. The Senator's daughter (who looks oddly like Marilyn Manson) barely cares about Raymond anymore. His killing her is of little emotional pain. The karate fight is gone, which means the new film is action-free, but something else important is missing: In the original, Raymond sees his 'houseboy,' and doesn't recognize him as the man who betrayed and tortured him. Marco sees the same 'houseboy,' recognizes him on sight, and launches his furious payback attack. There was a POINT to that. Raymond was weak, controllable. Marco was tough; his brainwashing didn't take. The contrast of tough Marco and sneering, weak Raymond, and their bonding as fellow brainwashees, was emotional and meaningful. The new Marco and Raymond prove, near the end, essentially interchangeable. The simply magnificent 'garden party' dream sequences of the original have been removed and replaced with generic herky-jerky mind-bend sequences (we saw just last week in 'The Bourne Supremacy.') The wonderfully symbolic playing cards/Queen of Diamonds theme has been replaced by the old microchips-planted-in-my-brain canard (we saw just last month in 'The Stepford Wives.') There is no longer a visual linkage between the Queen of Diamonds and Raymond's mother. The wonderful trigger line: 'Why don't you pass the time by playing a nice game of solitare?' has been replaced with a banal 'Sergeant Shaw. Sergeant Raymond Prentice Shaw' so that when Streep utters the words, she had to bark them like some sort of nutcase drill sergeant (Lansbury simply offered the chilling invitation to her son.) Classic movies bring the right actors together in the right combination. As good as they are, none of the four leads here Washington, Streep, Schreiber, Elise make the emotional connection that their four forbears made. Streep is the worst, indulging her usual tics and self-referential mannerisms to make Mrs. Shaw a one-dimensional political ogre rather than the grand monster that Angela Lansbury was (here,the Manchurian Global baddies look at Steep near the end as if thinking 'We hired this idiot politician to front us?') Times being what they are, Streep will get an Oscar and mumble speeches like "For little old me? I don't deserve this." She doesn't. Washington is a highly skilled actor who captures this version of Marco well but Sinatra's Marco was a tougher character (that karate fight) rendered far more sad and soulful in Sinatra's best performance. Sinatra was always a great singer of lost loves and causes he carried that emotion forward to his work as Marco. Washington can play tough, but doesn't really get to, here. Washington's fierce intelligence also neutralizes his emotional connection to the story. It's not whether Sinatra or Washington is the better actor (both won Oscars), its Sinatra's fitting the tale better. Liev Schreiber has it in him to match Laurence Harvey's singular performance in the original (so unlovable and yet so sad; a killer beyond his ability to control it), but the new script doesn't give Schreiber a chance. And yes, Rosie is explained in this movie as a character we've seen in 100 movies and 1,000 TV shows. The mystery is gone. Kimberly Elise is given nothing new to play. And she is not the star -- yet -- that Janet Leigh was when she played the role. Identification with Leigh (right after "Psycho") was more intense. The ending of the new film mangles the meaning of the original. The switch of assassins requires the elimination of the tragedy of the original, and forces a expository epilogue in the modern 'gotta explain it all" tradition. And the loss of Joe McCarthy, World Communism, the Chinese, the Russians, and the Koreans in favor of gutless Hollywood PC villainy (an evil corporation, white guys smoking cigars, and a South African white scientist) is standard issue. We've seen this movie before and it wasn't 'The Manchurian Candidate.' That the new 'Manchurian Candidate' is worth seeing at all is because the source material is so good they can't totally wreck it, and because the star actors are interesting enough even if they never soar where the original took its characters. It's a three-star movie of four-star plus material, and in destroying virtually everything that made the original such a special film and great classic, the new 'Manchurian Candidate' deserves a drop of at least another star.
While the 2004 remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" is ensemble acting at its finest, Meryl Streep seems to be having a bit too much fun playing the villainess Eleanor Prentiss Shaw. She doesn't have the same blood-curdling constitution as did Angela Lansbury. "What was I supposed to do, call a MEETING?" she exclaims as her wimpy male colleagues in the shadowy Manchurian Global upbraid her for ordering someone killed without consulting them. Problem is, she was radiantly glowing when she uttered the line, which produced laughs in the NYC theatre I was in. When she showers Liev Schreiber with overly affectionate kisses and hugs, one again suspects Meryl was having a bit too much fun on camera with someone she finds quite attractive -- don't we all? -- in real life. On its own, the 2004 remake is fine cinema. But the problem with all remakes is the inevitable comparison with original. And sadly, as much as I like the 2004 version, my vote goes with Angie Lansbury and Laurence Harvey.
Three months ago I watched the original Manchurian Candidate on DVD. I was amazed on how good this movie is, and how well it holds up after 42 years of its release in movie theaters. So, yesterday when I watched the 2004 version directed by Jonathan Demme it was impossible for me not to compare the two films. Without the existence of the original, Demme's effort could be defined as a good (not outstanding) political thriller and it's easy to think that this definition is compatible with the general opinion of today's audiences. But (a big but) in reality there is an original, and it is so good, so brave, and so well written that this new version almost feels pointless. In adapting the story to modern day Jonathan Demme made more wrong choices than good ones diminishing the power and intensity of the original. This remake took out some key dramatic elements that work marvelously in the original film inserting some new and poorly written plot twists changing and damaging the dramatic resolution. This version is inferior in almost every level (the only exception is the acting). It is less powerful, less edgy, and less intelligent. Fortunately for Demme the original picture is not as well known as classics like 'Casablanca' and this will allow his film to find a moderate positive acceptance.
I have to admit, I was horrified to see that someone was remaking the 1964 near-masterpiece. I had no intention of seeing it, but then I happened to catch Demme and Washington on "Charlie Rose", and Demme put my mind to rest that he was not trying to remake the original picture. I was still skeptic, but I decided to have an open mind and check it out for myself. I'm glad I did. The only thing this film has in common with the 1964 film is a political background, a domineering mother, and the brainwashing angle (which is done significantly differently here). This film is about what's happening now, and it's as gutsy as any film in today's political climate can possibly get. The story is told through the inflamed, paranoid POV of a Gulf War veteran who tries to unveil a plot between a corporate hierarchy (that's involved in the defense industries and medical technologies among other things) and certain politicians who want to stake their influence on a vice presidential nominee. This 'influence' is achieved through the brainwashing of the nominee as well as several soldiers who had been stationed with him in Kuwait. Political machinery and defense industries have always been dangerous bedfellows, but when the politicians actually have worked in, and have personal interests in those industries, the motivations of such a partnership can be used to exploit the public in all sorts of ominous ways. This film brilliantly places the sort of paranoia that can derive from such precarious matches as a sign of our times. Consciously or subconsciously, conspiracies are on all of our minds. Today, because there is so much secrecy in the current administration, no one knows just how terrible OR innocent these guys might really be. And where there is secrecy, there will be conspiracy theories galore. Paranoia is so commonplace in such a society that it is technically very easy for plots and lies to thrive healthfully. We tell ourselves, "the government is honest and probably has good reasons to keep secrets from the public, so those who see plots and conspiracies must all simply be deluded and paranoid. Right?" The fact is that politicians can easily lie, and the media, instead of demanding the truth, puts outrageous spins on those lies claiming to present them as 'facts'. This becomes an almost intolerable static that begins to blot out all meaning. One of the most ingenious things about this film is in its use of that kind of static. Throughout much of the film, there is a cacophony of radios and TV spewing out their obligatory spins simultaneously, as well as the nearly constant sounds of traffic and people talking over one another. The people in this movie can hear, but no one is listening. There's also a proverbial static between science and technology and the moral questions that remain elusive. The survivors of the brainwashing experiment mentioned above, have little chips implanted in their backs that somehow aid the brainwashers. The chips could be some sort of homing device, or perhaps some sort of hormone moderator that's supposed to keep the men in the mental state that makes them more easily susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Well, chips that can serve as homing devices, or that can regulate hormones and amino acids such as tryptophan, are in the experimental phase today. In other words, this isn't way-out science fiction here! Okay, I know I'm sounding like I'm paranoid and that I'm saying that everything in this film can and will happen. Don't worry, I know this is just a movie and that the events depicted in it are EXTREMELY unlikely to ever take place. What I'm focusing on is how well the film takes themes, facts and situations that are topical and at least emotionally legitimate, and presents them in the context of a whopper of a good thriller. The film is fresh and audacious and honest in all of its approaches, with the one exception of Meryl Streep who seems to think she's in a Bette Davis movie. In the original "Manchurian Candidate" Angela Lansbury played her role, and she was appropriately icy, deliberate, and almost iconic in the way she carried her power. For some reason Streep tried to go to self-consciously comic proportions (you can almost see her winking at the audience saying "don't you just LOVE how bad I am?"). The rest of the performances however, are appropriately sober and solid. I never caught Washington acting, and Schrieber is masterful in the way he consolidates the conscious and subconscious friction of his character's agony into an invisible but palpable tension. The score by Rachel Portman is eerily reminiscent of Howard Shore's score for "Silence of the Lambs", and just as exciting and effective. And I can't help but thrill over Wyclef Jean's fantastic rendition of the CCR song "Fortunate One": a version as appropriate to this decade as the original version was to the late sixties (check out the lyrics: replace 'senator's son' with 'president's' son, and see if George W. Bush doesn't come to mind!). Finally, is this film as good as the original version? They're so different I honestly can't compare. I can only say that this film is as appropriate to the political and sociological climate of today as the original was to its day. Don't forget both versions were based on a novel, so comparisons should be made in that context more than anything else (I haven't read the book so I can't comment on that). There are some loopholes in the current film's plot, and I do love the cinematic style of the original film more than this one. But as I was only a kid when the first film came out, this film has a slightly stronger emotional impression on me than the other one. I only hope all it stays science fiction!
Although the marketers insist that it isn't a straight remake of the original, it obviously is all they key elements are the same. The new twist is supposed to be a post-modern take on America, because every liberal with a camera loves to point at the United States and laugh. Yet somehow it just feels simple and lazy. All the observations are obvious; the supposedly sly political commentary is about as elevated as Al Franken pulling a funny face, or Michael Moore ingratiating himself to Canadians by assuring them how stupid Americans are. Denzel Washington is the epitome of cool. I don't think he can give a bad performance. He gives this movie all his effort, and I would say that his performance and the brief one by Jeffrey Wright as Al Melvin are the best parts of the film. But even Washington can't overcome a scenery-chewing, cringe-inducing overacting seminar given by Meryl Streep, the exercise in blandness that is Liev Schreiber, and a generally inconsistent, heavy-handed, and patently ridiculous storyline. The movie starts off on the wrong foot with a jarring and poorly-constructed opening. We are subjected to about five minutes of soldiers playing cards in the back of an armored vehicle, while different loud rock tracks cut in every few seconds. This is the credit sequence, and it is not crucial to the movie. But it completely fails to draw the viewer into the atmosphere the filmmakers are trying to set (Wyclef Jean destroying John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" doesn't help). Then we have brief action in Kuwait and a sudden jump cut to the present day. Raymond Shaw is running for the Vice President position, and everyone believes he heroically rescued his entire squad in Kuwait. Marco is on the lecture circuit, speaking to Boy Scout troops about his time in action. He is confronted by former squad mate Melvin, who tells him that he is having bad dreams and who shows Marco a journal of drawings and notes. Marco reacts strangely to this rather than admitting that he has these bad dreams himself, he holds Melvin at arms' length. We all know at this point that Melvin will turn up dead later in the movie, so it's best to say your goodbyes now. This is where the first plot hole of the movie shows up. Suddenly Marco is completely involved in this conspiracy theory, merely by seeing Melvin's journal and having some more bad dreams. Are we expected to believe that in the years following the incident in Kuwait, the men of the unit never got together to discuss what happened? That none of their superiors found it odd that they gave the same word-for-word description of what supposedly happened, or had the same nightmares? Marco tries to speak with Shaw, who is busy with his campaign and incredibly controlled and domineered by his mother. On the way to speak to Shaw, Marco is approached by a woman named Rosie (the required love interest) who mysteriously invites him to her New York apartment. Here we have another plot hole, as Marco discovers an implant in his shoulder while showering (so he never touched his shoulder for over ten years before this?) but loses it down the sink. Marco then arranges a meeting with Shaw and in a curiously homo-erotic scene bends him over a table and bites his back. This allows him to steal Shaw's implant, which he then gives to crazy scientist friend Delp (another plot line that goes nowhere) who for some reason gives Marco a massive electric shock to the head. I'm sure he explained why he did this, but his accent was so damn thick I couldn't understand a word, and in the end it makes no difference whatsoever. More of the conspiracy is revealed as the presidential election draws near. Marco continues investigating, clicking a Google link as dramatic music plays. Turns out that Rosie may be a federal agent. Shaw himself waffles (he's a flip-flopper!) between robotic guilt and robotic ambition. Meryl Streep eats a couch. Shaw wades into a river in a full suit and kills a man with a kayak, then drowns his one true love. Nobody finds this suspicious. Then suddenly the federal agents who didn't believe a word of Shaw's story completely trust him and escort him to a private room with the man, on the eve of the election; both men are triggered and start the assassination plot which has a bizarre twist at the end. There is one aspect of the storyline a dropped plot line that particularly frustrated me. In the original movie, it was killing his childhood sweetheart that caused Shaw to rebel. In this version we are subjected to a few torturous scenes of Shaw insisting that Jocelyne was his one true love, despite the fact that the two actors have absolutely zero chemistry (to be fair, what woman could love a robot). Then Shaw offs her in a river with her dad and the entire plot line is dropped. This just makes no sense. In fact, the entire scene where Shaw kills the Jordan family is ridiculous killing a man in the open in his kayak? This screams screenwriter phobia. Why go to all this trouble just to get a guy elected president? It doesn't appear to be very hard to do, particularly if you have the right last name. But at this point in time the demonizing of Americans has become a cottage industry, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. It doesn't seem to matter to the people who buy this stuff whether or not the story is believable, coherent, or even entertaining. As long as it's critical of the United States it's in. If that's your mindset, I suggest you cozy up with this tepid remake and lather up your back for a good patting. Otherwise it's just more grist for the cable TV mill.