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The Manchurian Candidate

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Liev Schreiber, Kimberly Elise, Jon Voight, Vera Farmiga, David Keeley, Jeffrey Wright, Sakina Jaffrey, Simon McBurney, Paul Lazar, Alyson Renaldo, Adam Lefevre, Robyn Hitchcock, Pablo Schreiber

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Back in 1962, when John Frankenheimer originally made this thriller, it was about a group of captive US soldiers who were brainwashed during the Korean War. In this timely reinvention, Jonathan Demme focuses on a group of soldiers in Kuwait, 1991, just before Desert Storm.

As the story begins, a dedicated US Army major, Ben Marco (Denzel Washington), has been having nightmares and bizarre hallucinations that he suspects are related to his service in the Gulf War, where he and his squad were rescued, single-handedly, by a fellow soldier, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber). Now a Congressman, the enigmatic Shaw won the Medal of Honor for his heroics and, thanks to his powerful mother, Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), and the financial backing of a ruthless geopolitical corporation, Manchurian Global, he could be the next Vice-President of the United States. At least, until Marco surfaces with preposterous conspiracy theories involving sinister surgical implants and a fugitive geneticist. Far-fetched? Maybe not.

Screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Dean Gerogaris have updated George Axelrod's script, based on Richard Condon's novel, to encompass Gulf War syndrome and contemporary paranoia. In the original, the diabolical mother (Angela Lansbury) was the wife of a United States Senator; today, she's a controversial Senator herself. Of course, if you remember the plot, much of the suspense is gone. On the other hand, if you don't know what's going to happen, this a terrifying cautionary tale in which Meryl Streep delivers an electrifying, Oscar-caliber performance. In fact, all the acting is flawless. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Manchurian Candidate" is a topical, relevant 9, one of those superbly crafted, content-driven chillers that makes you think.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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