The Manchurian Candidate (15)

Film

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Time Out says

Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) suffers nightmares, related somehow to his experiences in Kuwait in 1991. But only when he’s approached by Al Melvin (Jeffrey Wright) does he realise he’s not alone in his psychic turmoil, and begin to suspect that there’s more than meets the eye to the much-vaunted heroic acts allegedly performed by Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) when they were ambushed in the desert: much vaunted because Shaw, with not a little ‘encouragement’ and ‘help’ from his fiercely ambitious mother, Senator Ellie Shaw (Meryl Streep), is running as vice-presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. Marco’s dreams don’t disappear, but Melvin does – at least until he’s found drowned in the Potomac. Time for Marco to talk turkey with Shaw…

Given the classic status of John Frankenheimer’s 1962 movie, Jonathan Demme, his cast and writers Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris were risking ridicule in taking on another version of Richard Condon’s novel. Happily, this extremely timely entertainment matches, even perhaps surpasses its predecessor. Suspense and sly humour are again in abundance, as is political relevance. Here is an America where truth, democracy and proper ethical considerations are imperilled not by Cold War enemies but by unbridled late capitalism itself; dynastic ambition, hollow patriotism, meaningless slogans, the fuelling of fear and paranoia, media complicity and puppet figureheads under the influence of shady, self-serving global conglomerates are the order of the day. Nothing surprising about that, really, except that this is a Hollywood genre movie, and it’s terrific, for once, to see a sharp, slick, adult, darkly comic thriller whose more outlandish aspects – brainwashing by implant, say – succeed so well as metaphors for contemporary reality. The performances (especially that of Streep) are spot-on, the script extraordinarily up-to-date, and Demme’s direction – particularly the creation of unease through the subtle use of sound and odd direct-to-camera dialogue – a real return to form after his last film. Worryingly superior stuff.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Nov 19, 2004

Duration:

130 mins

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