Film review: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (2004)

This review by Robert Loerzel originally appeared in Pioneer Press.

manchuriancandidate-posterTHE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
Director Jonathan Demme keeps up a fever pitch in this delirious nightmare of political paranoia, but despite some compelling action, it’s never as convincing as John Frankenheimer’s version from 1962. The original must have seemed joltingtly surreal when it first came out, and even now, viewed as a relic from the Cold War, it casts an eerie charm. What seemed original 42 years ago feels like cliché in this remake. This time around, the Gulf War provides the backdrop, but the story is still about some soldiers who were brainwashed. Denzel Washington is desperately trying to figure out what really happened out in the desert, and he has a bad feeling about his old war buddy, played by Live Schreiber, who’s running for vice president under the guidance of his witchy senator mom, Meryl Streep. Some aspects of the story are no longer as believable as they were in the 1960s. Would all of these weird happenings, not to mention the VP candidate’s peculiar personality, really escape the media’s scrutiny during the middle of a presidential campaign? Where’s the Drudge Report when you need it? Despite the film’s flaws, the strong cast keeps things entertaining.