Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Manchurian Candidate (IMDB) (Netflix)

A remake of the John Frankenheimer classic that starred Frank Sinatra, Lawrence Harvey and Angela Landsbury (long before her Murder, She Wrote turned her into America’s sweetheart). Here the story’s been re-structured, highlighting Denzel Washington (in the Sinatra role) as he tries to understand what’s been done to him and the new vice-presidential candidate, played by Liev Schreiber, with the ultimate stage mother, Meryl Streep as a U.S. Senator. Directed by Jonathan Demme, of Silence of the Lambs fame.

While the original was chilling in its matter-of-factness, this version’s emotion comes from Washington’s discovery process—is he nuts, or is he just part of a crazy scheme to manipulate the election—and here Washington is less the leading man than guy trying to find his sanity. Streep is as always terrific as the hyper-ambitious politician, but the character and performance that impresses is that of Schreiber, who is by turn convivial and cold-hearted, articulate and vulnerable, as he also begins to see what’s happening to him. Being a political thriller, Manchurian Candidate doesn’t have the sheer horror factor of Lambs, but there are some great moments of tension that will remind you of the earlier film.