ReelTalk Movie Reviews  

New Reviews
Jurassic World Domini...
Jazz Fest: A New Orle...
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue ...
more movies...
New Features
Poet Laureate of the Movies
Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks
Score Season #71
more features...
ReelTalk Home Page
Contact Us
Advertise on ReelTalk

Listen to Movie Addict Headquarters on internet talk radio Add to iTunes

Buy a copy of Confessions of a Movie Addict

Main Page Movies Features Log In/Manage

Rate This Movie
 Above AverageAbove AverageAbove AverageAbove Average
 Below AverageBelow Average
Rated 3.02 stars
by 2057 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Second Candidate Also a Winner
by Betty Jo Tucker

While teaching American Problems back in 1962, I took my entire high school social studies class to see John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate. We were studying brainwashing at the time, and this political thriller about an assassination plot that involved post-hypnotic suggestion did the trick. It motivated students to learn more about the topic, and I believe the 2004 remake might do the same today.  

Even though considerable liberties have been taken with the original film based on Richard Condon's novel, the basic premise about mind control remains the same in this riveting remake. A new screenplay by Daniel Pyne (The Sum of All Fears) and Dean Georgaris (Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life) still focuses on a group of American soldiers kidnapped and brainwashed into believing one of them acted heroically to save their lives -- but it moves that incident from the Korean War to the Gulf War. 

Although my husband calls it blasphemy, I like many of the changes here. Gone is the “Queen of Diamonds” gimmick as the trigger for certain behavior. In its place, a tone of voice and simple phrases bring about the desired actions in a more believable way. Also, in the 1962 version, the relationship between Frank Sinatra’s distressed Major Marco and a beautiful woman (Janet Leigh) he meets on the train never made much sense to me, whereas Denzel Washington, now playing Marco with heightened intensity, and Kimberly Elise’s “Rosie” have a purpose in their interactions -- one that adds to the movie’s suspense.

Expanding the role of the manipulative mother, portrayed originally (and magnificently) by Angela Lansbury, emerges as another very good idea. Meryl Streep runs with this part as only she can, making every gesture and vocal inflection count as she hovers over the son (Liev Schreiber) she’s grooming for top political office. Schreiber had a tough act to follow in his key role -- for Laurence Harvey nailed the emotionally distant Sgt. Raymond Shaw perfectly in the previous version -- but he manages to carry it off with flying colors. Morphing Schreiber’s Raymond Shaw into the Vice Presidential candidate (his step-father in the original movie) for this second film works well for the talented actor. With those clean-cut good looks and his deep, articulate voice, he surely would’ve won my vote -- if I didn’t know about the horror happening behind the scenes.

What I missed most in this remake, directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), involves the lack of really hateful villains other than Meryl Streep’s overly ambitious character. This time it’s a powerful corporation (Manchurian Global), not the communist brainwashing experts depicted in those surreal “tea party” scenes of 1962. Somehow, a scientist implanting microchips in a person’s body doesn’t come across as visually exciting as Korean and Russian military officers turning into well-dressed American ladies right before your very eyes. 

Fortunately, this newfangled Manchurian Candidate delivers old-fashioned mesmerizing entertainment. It also sends a timely warning about what some people might do to get their candidate into the White House.      

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “R” for violence and some language.)

© 2024 - ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Website designed by Dot Pitch Studios, LLC