Skip to comments.THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (Ebert's review)
Posted on 07/30/2004 4:33:58 AM PDT by M 91 u2 K
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE / *** (R)
July 30, 2004
Ben Marco: Denzel Washington Eleanor Shaw: Meryl Streep Raymond Shaw: Liev Schreiber Rosie: Kimberly Elise Jocelyn Jordan: Vera Farmiga Senator Jordan: Jon Voight
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Jonathan Demme. Written by George Axelrod, Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris. Based on the novel by Richard Condon. Running time: 130 minutes. Rated R (for violence and some language).
BY ROGER EBERT
Corporations, not commies, are the sinister force behind Jonathan Demme's "The Manchurian Candidate," in which poor Raymond Shaw is told by a liberal senator: "You are about to become the first privately owned and operated vice president of the United States." There's a level of cynicism here that is scarier than the Red Chinese villains in John Frankenheimer's 1962 classic. It's a stretch to imagine a communist takeover of America, but the idea that corporations may be subverting the democratic process is plausible in the age of Enron.
Demme is not shy about suggesting parallels with current politics, and he borrows a neat bit of indirection from Frankenheimer: In the 1962 version, communists posed as anti-communists to drum up hysteria that could be used to subvert American freedoms. In the new version, right-wingers pose as liberals to win office while neutering the left. Meryl Streep plays Sen. Eleanor Shaw, who has sold her soul to the Manchurian Global Corp. A stage mother from hell, she pushes her son Raymond (Liev Schreiber) into the vice presidency; a timely assassination will make him president. Raymond has a chip implanted in his skull which will allow Manchurian to control him.
This plan is on track and will succeed, unless two men can make sense of their nightmares. Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) and Al Melvin (Jeffrey Wright) both fought in the Gulf War, as members of a patrol that was saved by the heroism of Sgt. Shaw -- whose Medal of Honor launched his political career. But did Shaw really save them? Marco and Melvin have fragmented nightmares of an alternate reality. Marco notes that all the patrol members use identical words to describe their experience. "I remember that it happened," Shaw confesses to Marco, "but I don't remember it happening."
Audiences of the earlier film will know that during the patrol's missing days, as Marco eventually concludes, "Somebody got into our minds with chainsaws." The brainwashing is front-loaded in Demme's version; it's revealed fairly early, perhaps because he and his writers concluded there was no use being coy about a secret that most of the audience already knows. Instead, Demme wisely conceals other secrets, leading to a wickedly different ending just when you think you know everything that will happen.
Washington plays Marco as a man with the public face of a decorated officer and the private tortures of a haunted man. After he discovers a chip under the skin of his shoulder, he desperately tries to get to Shaw to talk about their experience. At one point, Marco actually leaps upon the vice presidential candidate, rips off his shirt and tries to bite a chip out from under his skin. The Secret Service then comes to the rescue, but Shaw declines to press charges, leaving us to wonder how the news organizations cover the remarkable spectacle of a decorated veteran biting a heroic candidate. Somehow, it should be a bigger story.
Schreiber, as Shaw, has the role played by Laurence Harvey in the original, and Washington follows Frank Sinatra. Meryl Streep has the assignment of playing the alarming and incestuous Mrs. Shaw, a role for which Angela Lansbury won an Oscar nomination, while essentially stealing the movie. Streep wisely goes for oblique humor rather than straight-ahead villainy, making the character different and yet just as loathsome. Gossips have whispered for months that her performance is modeled on Sen. Hillary Clinton, but I dunno; Streep has mentioned Peggy Noonan, Condi Rice and Dick Cheney.
Making parallels like that is risky. Demme's movie has all sorts of characters on the screen who tempt us to name their real-life counterparts, but he doesn't do simplistic one-to-one parallels; instead, he allows sly contemporary references to enter the film through many characters, as when one candidate calls for "compassionate vigilance." Another bold line, by Mrs. Shaw: "The assassin always dies, baby. It's necessary for the national healing."
Frank Rich writes in the New York Times that the movie is "more partisan" than "Fahrenheit 9/11," but that requires a simpler and more translatable plot than the one I saw. Demme sticks his knife in everywhere, suggesting that the whole system and both parties have been compromised by the power of corporations. (For truly uninhibited parallelism in interpreting the movie, read Paul Krugman's July 20 N.Y. Times column "The Arabian Candidate.")
Every time I watch the original "Manchurian Candidate," I'm teased by the possibility that there may be another, deeper, level of conspiracy, one we're intended to sense without quite understanding. It involves the character of the woman named Rose or Rosie, who Marco meets on a train; she was played in 1962 by Janet Leigh and this time by Kimberly Elise. These characters materialize out of nowhere, fall instantly in love with Marco, and say inexplicable things. To accept them as simply a romantic opportunity is too easy; why would a woman fall for a complete stranger who (in the Sinatra version) is shaking so badly he can't light his cigarette and (in the Washington version) biting vice presidential candidates? She's up to something.
To compare Demme's version with Frankenheimer's is sort of irrelevant. That was then and this is now. Sinatra and Washington are both complete and self-contained and cannot be meaningfully compared. What we can say is that Demme has taken a story we thought we knew and, while making its outlines mostly recognizable, rotated it into another dimension of conspiracy. Are corporations really a threat to America's security? The rotten ones are. When you consider that the phony California electric crisis, with its great cost in lives and fortune, was an act of corporate terrorism, he has a point.
Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times Inc.
Ebert is so blind it is left-wingers posing as convservatives while neutering America's defense!
Do you know the surprise ending?
I love how Hollywood is completely saturating the market with these politico films all bashing the right. Yeah, Hollywood is fair isn`t it? I read that review of The Village yesterday in the Post and almost gagged. The leader is named "Walker" and the signs outside the village are color coded for threat levels etc. Then of course you have Tubbys movie Fatandweight 911 pounds, then that other one by Harry Thomson about Clinton, it`s never ending is it? Hollywood is in panic mode doing everything it can to get the most liberal moron into the White House.
Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that the Enron executives who had done wrong had been indicted and/or cooperated with federal prosecutors (from the Bush Justice Dept., I might add). So exactly how is it that the "democratic process has been subverted"?
Right, the Enron senior leadership shackled and indicted is clear proof that they run the government.
Going back to the first one. We have a war hero who all those who were with him say he is wonderful, but those outside his group say he is not. That sounds like Kerry. But for him to fit he would have to kill himself (the plot of the original - the brainwashed guy is going to kill the pres candidate).
But Kerry is a liberal acting like a conservative, just the opposite of the new movie, but fits the plot. And one of the crew is missing since he disagrees with "Kerry is a good guy" mantra.
To have any parallel, there has to be a scheming woman manipulating everything. She also has to have a weak husband. And she wants the Presidential candidate out of the way so she can step in. Naw... there is no dem woman like that.
The ending should be up here in the next day or two:
This is a handy site when you want to know the twist without actually having to bother seeing the movie.
I saw the original before it was embargoed after the Kennedy hit. I will never see this one.
No fan of Sinatra, he was the best in the black and white version.
The Enron that did all the book cooking under Clintoon, but was prosecuted under Bush? These people live in fantasy land.
If memory serves, Gore got about 48.5 million votes. I don't know what the average movie ticket costs, but if we average the higher art house evening shows with the bargain matinees and settle on $7, that means that all it had to do was sell one ticket to each Gore voter and it should have made nearly $340 million. Seems to me it's not only not reaching a wider audience, it hasn't even attracted one-third of its intended audience. Doesn't sound like much of a phenomenon to me. The total domestic gross for "The Hulk" was $132,177,234, and it was considered a big flop.
The only reason Moore is rolling in money is because his cartoon was so much cheaper to make than "The Hulk," and the liberal media provided his marketing for free. That other big, green, angry, unkempt blob had to pay for his own commercials.
I guess its all those "lives" that were lost in the Enron war in California.
OTOH, who does this remind you of?
When I drive to work every morning I see car after car, person after person going to "corporations" who's sallaries are derived from "profits".
Why can't todays liberal see that simple truth ?
Now add George Soros to that equasion and you've got a movie.
I used to read Ebert for reviews, as a 'control,' to keep a consistency of reviewer to evaluate a movie, but he's gone WAY LEFTY in the last few years, even to the extent of straining for a connection to throw in his political shots. He's become unreadable, and apparently it's blinded him to the stupidity of a 'corporate takeover' concept (he thought a communist takeover was 'far-fetched,' but this isn't?).
I actually liked the Hulk. (I was probably one of the few who did...)
WTF? How is this any better than a good old fashion brainwashing? Chip under the skin in their shoulder controlling their brain? That sounds so stupid. And biting it out? The tea scene in the original is one of the greatest things ever filmed. This movie didn't need to be remade.
Someone should do a documentary on Stinky Moore and how many times he changes his clothes in a month. I mean this guy has been wearing the same black shirt and jacket for the past 4 months! Why anyone doesn`t notice this is beyond me. I`m not kidding, look up pictures of him in Yahoo news, he`s always wearing the same thing. The only thing he changes is his baseball hat.
But, we're dealing with their feeeeelings, facts are not allowed.
Yet here we have a movie that tries to demonise the free enterprise system or at least non-governmental forms of employment. A political party that wants to turn power over to the UN as stated by its Presidential candidate. A media that calls the truth a lie and a lie the truth, who fully backs one candidate over the other and uses its influence to get its candidate elected. Movie makers who insult the country and its people and accuse the President of corruption, intended to erode support for a war against a vicious enemy and the President who is winning that war.
One candidate has a small group of soldiers who follow him around , lauding his greatness, while the vast majority who served with him bitterly oppose him, yet are unable to get noticed by the suffocating media who refuse to show this side.
I hope America sees this movie as I will. The Hollywood brass hopes this will turn the public away from Bush, but in our guts we will know who these characters are. One is Kerry and the other is Hillary.
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