Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Manchurian Candidate


Jonathan Demme is remaking this with Denzel Washington as Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep as Angela Lansbury, and someone called Liev Schreiber as Laurence Harvey. Why do they do these things? Streep is very, very good, but Lansbury had one of the single greatest scenes in cinema history in the original; not even Meryl is going to be able to top it. The Manchurian Candidate is probably the best political thriller ever made. Why do it again?

(2005) It’s out on video now, and I’m going to leave this earlier comment from before I saw the remake in place, just to show you how honest I can be!

So … it’s still a stupid idea, even though the movie is good. Quite good, in fact. But when you’re done making this quite good movie, you still have to stack it up against the original, and it fails miserably on that level. Maybe if they’d just not used the title, called it something else, I wouldn’t have spent the entire movie comparing the similarities and differences, and pondering the reasons why the changes were made …

I don’t know. Enough of that. What’s good about the movie? Lots of stuff. Meryl Streep wisely doesn’t try to top Lansbury. They’ve changed her role and her motives and her level of knowledge and bitterness. Denzel is as good as he always is, this time in a movie worthy of his talent. Liev Schreiber is very good. I’m getting to know him better. Check him out in Spinning Boris. And the … texture of the film is very good. It’s clear this is about 8 years in the future. The television news looks a bit different. We hear snippets of radio and TV in the background that tell of wars all over the world, and apparently US troops are getting thin on the ground. Armed soldiers in camouflage are seen here and there in public places, like outside of Penn Station. It’s clear that the war on terrorism has spread to many other nations, and that we’re a few more steps down the road to a police state.

But the original was a tour-de-force, and this isn’t. I’ll never forget that opening scene, one continuous circular panning shot that, incredibly, morphs from bored soldiers sitting, for some reason, in the middle of a lecture at a ladies’ garden society, bored out of their minds, to a demonstration of brainwashing and murder in a Chinese prison camp. One shot, no cuts, and do you know how hard that was to do in the era before CGI? Like, a lot of grips had a lot of work to do in a very short time.