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The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

R  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi  |  30 July 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 83,269 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 360 user | 208 critic | 41 from Metacritic.com

In the midst of the Gulf War, soldiers are kidnapped and brainwashed for sinister purposes.


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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Eddie Ingram
Robert Baker
Joaquin Perez-Campbell ...
Tim Artz ...
Robyn Hitchcock ...
Laurent Tokar
Antoine Taylor ...
Boy Scout #1
Joseph Alessi ...
Boy Scout #2
Scout Dad (as Ray Anthony Thomas)


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 A Prentiss

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


This summer everything is under control. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

30 July 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Manchurian Kandidat  »

Box Office


$80,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$20,018,620 (USA) (30 July 2004)


£1,915,402 (UK) (10 December 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Brian De Palma was (briefly) considered to direct this film, a suggestion made by one of De Palma's former representatives. However, the idea was ultimately nixed by producer Scott Rudin. See more »


In the last scene of the movie you hear radio chatter over the aerial beach shot. The audio says "NS 10 milepost 79.81, No defects." While this may sound like military radio traffic, what this actually is is an automated announcement system for a railroad safety system. A track side detector for Norfolk Southern Railroad (i.e. "NS") located at milepost 79.81 has just had a train pass by and no axle bearings were overheating (i.e. No defects). This is the message that the train engineer hears over his VHF locomotive radio after the train passes the detector. This was not appropriate radio traffic for this scene. See more »


[first lines]
Ben Marco: So why don't we just go directly right up in this route, straight in...
Laurent Tokar: Yes, I see the Captain enjoys the road less-traveled.
Ben Marco: No, the Captain enjoys not going down the highway, draggin' his ass so every Tom, Dick, Gaddafi can take a whack at it.
See more »


Referenced in Be Kind Rewind (2008) See more »


Love's Gonna Get 'cha (Material Love)
Written and Produced by KRS-One
Performed by Boogie Down Productions
Courtesy of Jive/BMG Records
By Arrangement with BMG Special Markets
Contains a sample of "Love's Gonna Get You"
by Toni C. (as Toni Colandreo)
Performed by Jocelyn Brown
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.
by arrangement with Warner Strategic Marketing
© 1990 Zomba Recording Corporation
See more »

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User Reviews

Don't Get Caught Up Making Comparisons!
25 August 2004 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

I have to admit, I was horrified to see that someone was remaking the 1964 near-masterpiece. I had no intention of seeing it, but then I happened to catch Demme and Washington on "Charlie Rose", and Demme put my mind to rest that he was not trying to remake the original picture. I was still skeptic, but I decided to have an open mind and check it out for myself. I'm glad I did.

The only thing this film has in common with the 1964 film is a political background, a domineering mother, and the brainwashing angle (which is done significantly differently here). This film is about what's happening now, and it's as gutsy as any film in today's political climate can possibly get. The story is told through the inflamed, paranoid POV of a Gulf War veteran who tries to unveil a plot between a corporate hierarchy (that's involved in the defense industries and medical technologies among other things) and certain politicians who want to stake their influence on a vice presidential nominee. This 'influence' is achieved through the brainwashing of the nominee as well as several soldiers who had been stationed with him in Kuwait.

Political machinery and defense industries have always been dangerous bedfellows, but when the politicians actually have worked in, and have personal interests in those industries, the motivations of such a partnership can be used to exploit the public in all sorts of ominous ways. This film brilliantly places the sort of paranoia that can derive from such precarious matches as a sign of our times. Consciously or subconsciously, conspiracies are on all of our minds. Today, because there is so much secrecy in the current administration, no one knows just how terrible OR innocent these guys might really be. And where there is secrecy, there will be conspiracy theories galore. Paranoia is so commonplace in such a society that it is technically very easy for plots and lies to thrive healthfully. We tell ourselves, "the government is honest and probably has good reasons to keep secrets from the public, so those who see plots and conspiracies must all simply be deluded and paranoid. Right?"

The fact is that politicians can easily lie, and the media, instead of demanding the truth, puts outrageous spins on those lies claiming to present them as 'facts'. This becomes an almost intolerable static that begins to blot out all meaning. One of the most ingenious things about this film is in its use of that kind of static. Throughout much of the film, there is a cacophony of radios and TV spewing out their obligatory spins simultaneously, as well as the nearly constant sounds of traffic and people talking over one another. The people in this movie can hear, but no one is listening. There's also a proverbial static between science and technology and the moral questions that remain elusive. The survivors of the brainwashing experiment mentioned above, have little chips implanted in their backs that somehow aid the brainwashers. The chips could be some sort of homing device, or perhaps some sort of hormone moderator that's supposed to keep the men in the mental state that makes them more easily susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Well, chips that can serve as homing devices, or that can regulate hormones and amino acids such as tryptophan, are in the experimental phase today. In other words, this isn't way-out science fiction here!

Okay, I know I'm sounding like I'm paranoid and that I'm saying that everything in this film can and will happen. Don't worry, I know this is just a movie and that the events depicted in it are EXTREMELY unlikely to ever take place. What I'm focusing on is how well the film takes themes, facts and situations that are topical and at least emotionally legitimate, and presents them in the context of a whopper of a good thriller. The film is fresh and audacious and honest in all of its approaches, with the one exception of Meryl Streep who seems to think she's in a Bette Davis movie. In the original "Manchurian Candidate" Angela Lansbury played her role, and she was appropriately icy, deliberate, and almost iconic in the way she carried her power. For some reason Streep tried to go to self-consciously comic proportions (you can almost see her winking at the audience saying "don't you just LOVE how bad I am?"). The rest of the performances however, are appropriately sober and solid. I never caught Washington acting, and Schrieber is masterful in the way he consolidates the conscious and subconscious friction of his character's agony into an invisible but palpable tension. The score by Rachel Portman is eerily reminiscent of Howard Shore's score for "Silence of the Lambs", and just as exciting and effective. And I can't help but thrill over Wyclef Jean's fantastic rendition of the CCR song "Fortunate One": a version as appropriate to this decade as the original version was to the late sixties (check out the lyrics: replace 'senator's son' with 'president's' son, and see if George W. Bush doesn't come to mind!).

Finally, is this film as good as the original version? They're so different I honestly can't compare. I can only say that this film is as appropriate to the political and sociological climate of today as the original was to its day. Don't forget both versions were based on a novel, so comparisons should be made in that context more than anything else (I haven't read the book so I can't comment on that). There are some loopholes in the current film's plot, and I do love the cinematic style of the original film more than this one. But as I was only a kid when the first film came out, this film has a slightly stronger emotional impression on me than the other one. I only hope all it stays science fiction!

58 of 96 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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