Review: The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Directed by: Jonathan Demme | 130 minutes | thriller, science fiction | Actors: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Kimberly Elise, Bruno Ganz, Simon McBurney, Vera Farmiga, Robyn Hitchcock

A blurred nighttime image of Captain Ben Marco being knocked down by one of his subordinates, on a mission in Kuwait; so begins ‘The Manchurian Candidate’. Something is wrong with the ambush in which Marco and his men are lured. What that is remains elusive for a long time in this lingering remake of John Frankenheimer’s 1962 film. Only towards the end does the fire ignite, with Meryl Streep as the genius.

Denzel Washington has to wear ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ before that and that is an occasional ordeal. His search for the ‘truth’ is uninspired and is never made clear. Every now and then, as a viewer, you feel like a jockey who would like to yell his racehorse forward, but the horse is still asleep.

The makers of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ have managed to move the original into the present day, with all the post-September 11 election rhetoric that goes with it. The film shows the manipulations at the top of politics and – to a lesser extent – ​​the defeat of war veterans. An interesting combo, which could have been of great value in a balanced film.

Such a film has not become ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ edition 2004. The long-winded main part may still keep Denzel fans in the room, but with its unknown developments it puts their patience to the test. And then the many supporting roles: Mengelian miracle doctors (Simon McBurney), lost English pop musicians (Robyn Hitchcock), half-hearted FBI agents (Kimberly Elise) and Q-like types (Bruno Ganz, of all people) suddenly appear on the scene and confuse rather than that they drag you into a sinister plot.

The final chord is all the more surprising, with a rock-solid Meryl Streep and the puzzle pieces finally falling into place. Mother Shaw’s script is falling apart and that is still fresh in the memory with the American election. What is going on ‘behind the painted smile’?

Denzel has long since been back in a supporting role and his fate can no longer interest us. Unfortunate. We have to talk about the ‘oldies’ in this film – with all due respect. Unfortunately, Meryl Streep’s showtime is short, as is Jon Voight, Shaw’s opponent in the film. Both have the grandeur that the story deserves. The decent Liev Schreiber not (yet). His character is ambiguous, but he remains superficial; that’s a lack in ‘The Manchurian Candidate’: lively, human protagonists with whom you can identify.

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