194 – The Manchurian Candidate

Wow, excellent movie. Jonathan Demme basically updated the 1962 political thriller so that the soldiers were in the Gulf War (the first one), and added a few other twists, too.

Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) is the former captain of a patrol that was ambushed in the middle of the desert. After Marco was knocked out, Pvt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schrieber) saved the entire patrol singlehandedly.

Or did he? Another former soldier from the platoon reports having a long series of bad dreams, dreams that seems to indicate a different chain of events that that remembered by Marco and the other soldiers. By this time, Shaw has successfully run for Senate under the “war hero” banner and is now angling for a spot on the presidential ticket. Orchestrating Shaw's political moves is his mother Eleanor (Meryl Streep), a senator with more brass than most of the males in her profession.

Marco’s ability to discern real from fake blurs instantly and frequently; is it possible Shaw is not the hero all have made him out to be? In this slight rethinking of the classic, Demme hasn’t made the update any less creepy or less involving. Even those who saw the original won’t know which way to turn. Only debit, perhaps, is Streep (surprisingly!), who’s a bit one-note and hammy.

The Manchurian Candidate: ***1/2

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