Summer Film Series – Vol. 2, No. 10: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
August 13th, Friday, at Cinemark Town Center, Sherman, TX
There were so many reasons for me to see this film, but Liev Schreiber topped the list. Yes, it was purely emotional, but if nothing else worked in this film, I would have enjoyed it anyway. Now I can see that I needn’t have worried.
The Manchurian Candidate is wonderful. I recently viewed, for the first time, the original film with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury just to have a comparison point (as I often like to do), so I was fully familiar with the story twists and plot of the film. My biggest question going in was just how they would update the original from its Communism plot. It’s a simple matter of ignoring it, actually, and it worked beautifully. There were just enough subtle differences from the original to keep this version fresh, and the actors were superb in their respective roles, often putting the originals’ acting to shame. I found this version more enjoyable by the end, although it was on fully equal ground with me until the last quarter of the film. When the final events began to play out, this movie surpassed its predecessor and never looked back. And it is a better film because of it.
Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington deserve Oscar recognition. For that matter, so does Liev. Liev played the entire role (except one small scene at the beginning of the film) as if he were under someone’s spell, which, of course, he was. He was appropriately (and sometimes astoundingly) dead in his eyes, and he seemed so small for a man who loomed over everyone. It was a wonderful bit of acting that deserves more credit than he is receiving. Although Streep and Washington are deserving of all the attention, as well. Streep, for one, thoroughly creeped me out, and Washington played his character in a way I’ve never seen him do before — completely out of his element and out of control of his being. It was a refreshing characterization to see from such a magnanimous actor; I hope to see him stretch in this way again in the near future.
I cannot say enough about The Manchurian Candidate, and I must recommend it to everyone. It’s straightforward drama at its best, but just creepy and chilly enough to keep you unsettled. Whereas The Village does this in an overt manner, Manchurian manages to put you off-balance where you didn’t realize you would be.