Saturday, August 20, 2005

DVD: The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Genre: Paranoia thriller
Director: Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs)
Roots: Remake of a 1962 film adapted from a 1959 novel
Verdict: &&&1/2

Mind control, implants, conspiracy, paranoia, and Denzel Washington biting a chunk out of someone's back – it's a shame I didn't see this in the theater. I'll admit up front that I never saw the original, and I never got a real feel for what this movie was about before seeing it. As Bennett Marco, Washington is a Persian Gulf War veteran who has memories of a heroic act by another soldier in his unit, Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), who becomes a suprise candidate for vice president. Trouble is, the memories feel somehow wrong, as if, perhaps, he didn't really experience those things. The paranoia escalates as Marco finds a mysterious object underneath his skin and confronts Shaw about their shared memories. Already feeling empty as a pawn of his power-hungry, corrupt politician mother, portrayed by a scenery-devouring Meryl Streep, who maneuvered her reluctant son onto the ticket's number two spot, Shaw becomes mired in self-doubt as he mugs for the cameras and spouts rhetoric. Add to the mix a diabolical corporation aspiring to control the presidency, and you have the fixings for a frighteningly believable cautionary tale. Bonus points for the jolting human experimentation scenes and the dead-on skewering of today's empty-headed politics. // DVD Extras // Best are the extended interviews, one by Al Franken, of Streep as Congresswoman Eleanor Shaw.

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