Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
When his army unit was ambushed during the first Gulf War, Sergeant Raymond Shaw saved his fellow soldiers just as his commanding officer, then-Captain Ben Marco, was knocked unconscious. Brokering the incident for political capital, Shaw eventually becomes a vice-presidential nominee, while Marco is haunted by dreams of what happened -- or didn't happen -- in Kuwait. As Marco (now a Major) investigates, the story begins to unravel, to the point where he questions if it happened at all. Is it possible the entire unit was kidnapped and brainwashed to believe Shaw is a war hero as part of a plot to seize the White House? Some very powerful people at Manchurian Global corporation appear desperate to stop him from finding out. Written by
Men and women in military uniforms are shown on stage at the convention. It is against the law for military personnel in uniform to participate in partisan political activity. See more »
Are we friends, Ben? I wanna believe we were friends.
We are connected and that's something nobody can take from us. You coulda had me locked up, but you didn't. That's proof that there's something deep inside. There's a part that they can't get to. And it's deep inside of us. And that's where the truth is.
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Better than most remakes, but not as compelling as the original
Here's something I never thought I'd say: I enjoyed parts of "The Manchurian Candidate" remake; it isn't as bad as I expected it to be.
And much of the credit goes to the three main players - Denzel Washington as the paranoid veteran, Liev Schreiber as the titular character and Meryl Streep as the power-hungry, Oedipally motivated Senator Eleanor Shaw.
Screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris reinvent and contemporize Richard Condon's novel and the 1962 film. While John Frankenheimer's film, written by George Axelrod, was the apotheosis of the Cold War thriller and a scathing indictment of McCarthyism, Jonathan Demme's remake is less subtle in its approach and paranoia, but takes barbed jabs at current politics, the corruptibility of our elected leaders and paranoia disguised as patriotism in a post-9/11 America.
The remake also owes a debt of gratitude to Alan J. Pakula's brilliant 1974 paranoia-conspiracy thriller, "The Parallax View."
Although it isn't clear whether Raymond Shaw is a Republican or Democrat - his mother certainly seems more Republican in her outlook and politics - Demme and his writers' point is that all American politicians are bought and paid for by big business. As we all know, we never heeded President Eisenhower's prescient caution about the military industrial complex.
The villainous Manchurian Global clearly was inspired by Halliburton - there's even mention of the company getting no-bid contracts. Pay close attention and you'll hear pointed references about the use of private contractors by the military, malfunctioning touch-screen voting machines and our government's "compassionate vigilance." Also, look fast and you'll see a news crawl about a Wal-Mart-type chain and a newspaper story about our treatment of Muslims.
Washington's awfully convincing as a man fraying at the edges, whose grip on reality seems to be slowly slipping, and there were a few moments where Schreiber almost reminded me of Laurence Harvey.
Streep, on the other hand, proves why she is undoubtedly the best actress this nation has ever produced. Her Eleanor spits venom. We're utterly convinced why Raymond's such a cuckold. We can only imagine what his poor father must have endured. Streep occasionally comes close to being campy, but so completely dominates the screen that she scares us even when she chews ice.
But several other talented actors, including Jon Voight, Vera Farmiga, Dean Stockwell and Ted Levine, are used to little or no effect.
Some crucial plot elements make no sense. The Dr. Noyle scenario, for instance, proves to be illogical, especially when we learn more about him. Neither Pyne nor Georgaris attempted to rectify this deficiency. Also, the mysterious Muslim women are superfluous. I wonder if their bit wound up on the cutting-room floor.
The film contains an unmistakable cynical tone. As much as it's clearly an indictment of big business' control of politics, it also denounces our leaders' insistence on keeping the public on edge with terror alerts. And as Senator Shaw points out, "The assassin always dies. It's necessary for the national healing."
But after maintaining its cynicism for much of the film, it comes apart completely at the end. Demme and his writers cop out with a pointless and weak denouement. That gunshot you hear is Demme shooting himself in the foot.
It's almost as if they gave in to appease some mindless preview audience or dimwitted studio hack. Or, maybe they envisioned it just like this. Given my admiration of Demme, I'd like to think otherwise. Hope I'm right.
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