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The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
I went into "The Manchurian Candidate" without knowing too much about the movie itself. I knew about its critical acclaim, but I was unfamiliar with the plot. Regardless, when I rented and watched the film, I had high expectations. I was not disappointed either.
The plot revolves around the strange case of Raymond Shaw, a sergeant who wins the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in the cold war. Two of the men in his company, however, have strange nightmares that suggest Raymond is not as deserving of the award as he seems. One of these men, Major Bennet Marco, led on by these recurring nightmares, unravels a sinister Communist plot. Set against the cold war paranoia of the sixties and McCarthyism, "The Manchurian Candidate" does an excellent job of recreating the intense suspense and tension of the time.
The acting in this film is superb. A great script is heightened by excellent acting in this movie. It's hard not to like Frank Sinatra in his role as Marco, who is the protagonist. Laurence Harvey as Raymond does a good job showing us a character that is wholly unlikable and snobby, yet pathetic and sad at the same time. And of course, Angela Lansbury in her role as Raymond's malicious and plotting mother is excellent.
Some stand-out scenes in the film were the nightmare sequences that brilliantly interlaced dream and reality, the all-queen solitaire game with Marco and Raymond, and the supremely tense climax at the political convention. The cinematography in the movie was very well done as action, romance, and tension all mixed together smoothly. All the scenes managed to keep my attention and kept me wondering what was going to happen next. As a thriller, the film works remarkably well, and it is quite easily the best political thriller I've seen to date.
Keeping me from giving the movie a perfect ten are one or two little nagging problems. I wasn't a big fan of the music for the movie, and it even disrupted the mood for me at one point in the film. It was okay, just not great. Also, the whole plot is sort of unlikely. I wont go into it here, but I don't think that the Communist plan for world domination would fall into the hands of one relatively uncontrolled person, no matter how well trained his mind was. That's just my opinion, however.
The movie is sort of long, and isn't exactly action packed, but it is very interesting, insightful, and even chilling. I had a great time watching it, and I definitely recommend it if you are interested at all in seeing a gripping Cold War era political thriller. Besides, the cultural relevance of the film alone is enough to see it.
Seriously flawed, but still some fun
When I first heard about this film, I was intrigued by the original premise. 6 people are trapped in a gigantic maze of cubical rooms which themselves are arranged in a giant cube. Each person has a skill needed to escape from the mysterious cube, which is filled with booby-trapped rooms. So I give the film some credit for simply attempting to create such a neat idea.
And I thought that the filmmakers created the cube itself quite nicely, especially as they were on a low budget. Even though the film is almost entirely confined inside rather smallish, cube-like rooms, I really didn't get tired of looking at the same set again and again. Another commendation I can give to the film is that I truely did feel the suspense, the sense of paranoia, etc. At least I was entertained.
But the movie is deeply flawed. First off, the acting is poor. Considering that the only thing to look at for 95% of this movie is the acting, I'd say this is a serious problem. Not to say the actors had tons to work with, since the script itself wasn't so good. The whole mathematical premise that the cube is based upon is rather shaky -- if it actually DOES make sense, then it is explained very poorly and clunkily. And the ending was a big let-down. Terribly disappointing, and it really didn't make so much sense.
Also, I went into watching "Cube" thinking there would be some kind of dawning and horrible realization as to what the cube's really was. This is never adequately explained in the movie. Rather than focusing on the nature of the cube itself, the film centers almost entirely on the breakdown of the characters inside the cube, with some nifty traps going off and killing or hurting people in neat ways every so ofter. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it's just not what I expected. And it's also kind of tough to pull off without really bang-up acting, which I reiterate, this film did NOT have.
"Cube" is some fun, but a let-down. If the plot really intrigues you and you think you can get past all these flaws that I've mentioned, knock yourself out and rent the movie. Otherwise, you'd probably best just stay away. It leaves a bitter taste, but you wont hate yourself for watching it.