The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Genre(s): Drama / Mystery
Paramount || R - 129 minutes - $12.98 || December 21, 2004
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2004-12-31


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer(s): Richard Condon (novel), George Axelrod (1962 screenplay), Daniel Pyne (screenplay) and Dean Georgaris (screenplay)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Kimberly Elise


Theatrical Release Date: July 30, 2004


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director & Screenwriter Commentary
  • The Enemy Within: The Making of The Manchurian Candidate
  • The Cast of The Manchurian Candidate
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary
  • Outtakes with Optional Commentary
  • Liev Schreiber Screen Test
  • Political Pundits with Optional Commentary


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.78)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Political thrillers either work, or they don't. The Manchurian Candidate is a remake of the 1962 thriller starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Henry, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury (an Oscar nominated role) and directed by John Frankenheimer. Replace Sinatra and Henry with Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber, give Meryl Streep the role of the mother, and change the ending a bit (to keep those who have seen the original on their toes and present something new). I have not seen the original (though I did catch a few minutes here and there over the years), but this version was lacking coherency (which may have been director Demme's purpose), but it also needed more tension.

Despite some of these flaws, Manchurian Candidate does benefit from some outstanding acting from its stars. Denzel Washington, who always seems to bring his "A" game no matter how poor the script may be, delivers once again. His role as the paranoid Gulf War I veteran plagued with nightmares of a fire fight that differ from what the official record shows. Liev Schreiber plays Raymond Shaw, a young political hotshot (in the veign of a JFK) who is at the forefront of a political conspiracy. Shaw has been set up to be the next President of the United States, and owned and controlled by a corporation. Meryl Streep takes over the Angela Lansbery part as Shaw's mother, Senator Eleanor Shaw. Streep has some proud moments as she roots for her party to get her son the VP nomination). Though the role could've been seen has over-the-top or perhaps annoying, Streep pulls it off magnificently (and gets a Golden Globe nod out of it as well).

The Manchurian Candidate certainly has its moments of glory. The acting is excellent, the direction from Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme was also great (with his in your face camera angles style prominant). But the film as a whole did not add up to much. Yes, the plot could be scary and maybe one day it could happen, but the way this story plays out (for more than two hours), there needed to be more.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Many studios tend to skimp out their special features, but fortunately Paramount does provide some decent stuff (all on one disc).

The commentary track from director Demme and co-writer Daniel Pyne was interesting but there was too much self-congradulations. They seemed to be all too impressed with their own work commenting on this or that scene and how suspensful it was. However, they also make some comparisons and changes with the original, something I appreciated. They also talk about how great it was to get such star power. All around still good commentary even if it gets a tad annoying at times.

The Enemy Within: Inside The Manchurian Candidate: Nothing too original though it is better than the 'making of' featurettes found on HBO or other cable channels as this seemed to made just for the DVD (major spoilers were revealed). There's the convential cast and crew interviews.

The Cast of The Manchurian Candidate: Another cast and crew interview junket that covers each of the major characters (Washington, Streep, Schreiber, Voight). Again, this is not a great featurette but it gives a little insight into how the actors looked at the roles (or why Schreiber was the one for his part out of all those from his generation).

Deleted/Extended Scenes: There are five deleted and extended scenes included on the disc. Each scene is accomponied by commentary from Demme and Pyne. The main reason these were cut was (as usual) to keep the movie flow. Although they are not ground-breaking stuff, the acting -- as with the film as a whole -- was quite good.

Outtakes: Two extended interviews with Ellie Shaw as she answers questions from Stacey Newsome-Santiago in one, and the other with Al Frankin. There's also the optional director's commentary to go along with it, which honestly you don't need to listen to.

Liev Schreiber Screen Test: This 3 minute screen test shows why Schreiber got the role. The scene used was during a dinner scene with Streep as he explains why he wants to help his old buddy Marco. Well done scene, but another feature only worth one viewing.

Political Punidts: This is a debate amongst three or four pairs as they discuss today's issues. The optional commentary on this one is basically just an introduction of the people doing the debates. If it's one thing I can't stand, are political pundits (maybe I just hate the word "pundit"), so you can see what I thought of this.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Manchurian Candidate comes with only the usual Dolby Digital surround sound that sounds alright and makes good use of my speakers. It would be nice that Paramount start putting DTS on these discs... As far as the picture is concerned, Demme's usage of colors, motion and other visuals are bright and vibrant. Nothing outstanding on either front, but good enough for me.



.::OVERALL::.

The Manchurian Candidate wasn't the best thriller this year and the story needed some working, but the performances were well done and Meryl Streep certainly deserves the praise she's been getting (inlcuding that nomination).