The Manchurian Candidate is a 2004 American political thriller film directed by Jonathan Demme. The film, based on Richard Condon's 1959 novel of the same name and a re-imagining of the previous 1962 film, stars Denzel Washington as Bennett Marco, a tenacious, virtuous soldier; Liev Schreiber as Raymond Shaw, a U.S. Representative from New York, manipulated into becoming a vice-presidential candidate; Jon Voight as U.S. Senator Tom Jordan, a challenger for vice president; and Meryl Streep as Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, also a U.S. Senator and the manipulative, ruthless mother of Raymond Shaw.
Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) is a war veteran who commanded a famous U.S. Army raid during the Persian Gulf War. For his role in that mission, Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) was awarded the Medal of Honor for single-handedly defeating the enemy and rescuing all but two of his men. Shaw has gone on to become a famous U.S. Congressman and, thanks to the influence of his mother, Virginia U.S. Senator Eleanor Prentiss (Meryl Streep), is nominated as the Vice-Presidential candidate over the favourite Senator Tom Jordan (Jon Voight). Shaw is withdrawn, but he opens up only to his mother and his childhood sweetheart, Tom Jordan's daughter Jocelyn (Vera Farmiga).
One of Marco's former NCOs, Corporal Al Melvin (Jeffrey Wright), contacts him and says that he suffers from confusing memories and "dreams" about their lost Army unit. He is clearly deranged, but he shows Marco some images he has drawn from his dreams. Marco begins to also have dreams about being captured on that raid and brainwashed by scientists led by a mysterious British man (Simon McBurney), and of himself and Shaw murdering their fellow soldiers. Marco begins investigating what really happened during the war, and travels to New York. A woman named Eugenie, an outgoing supermarket clerk with whom Marco interacts frequently, sits with him on the train and ultimately offers him a place to stay.
As Marco investigates, he discovers an implant in his back and, soon thereafter, one in Shaw's after a confrontation at campaign headquarters. After having the one taken from Shaw analyzed, Marco realizes that it is a nanotechnological experiment connected with Manchurian Global, a powerful private equity firm with major political connections. Marco researches Manchurian and recognizes the British man as Dr. Atticus Noyle, a former Manchurian geneticist-turned-mercenary, from one of his nightmares. Marco brings his findings to the attention of Jordan, who, although he doesn't entirely believe the story, confronts the Shaws and suggests that Raymond bow out of the campaign. Instead, Eleanor "activates" Raymond and orders him to kill Jordan. Jocelyn is also killed when she tries to stop an entranced Raymond.
Eugenie reveals herself to be with the FBI and have been monitoring the conspiracy for years. They found an implant in Melvin, who died like all of Shaw and Marco's squadmates in mysterious circumstances. They arrange a meeting between Marco and Shaw to convince Shaw of his condition. The meeting takes place just as Governor Arthur and Shaw win the White House, and Shaw receives a phone call from Eleanor for Marco. Eleanor, who is deeply linked with Manchurian, uses trigger words to control Marco's mind, giving him commands to assassinate the President-Elect so that Shaw can become President. Eleanor admits to Shaw that she voluntarily gave him to the brainwashers for the good of the country. However, the trauma of Jocelyn's death gives Shaw the strength to resist the mind control.
At the climactic moment, Shaw deliberately places himself between Marco and the President-Elect. As Eugenie rushes through the celebration crowd trying to find Marco, Shaw nods gravely at the hidden Marco. Shaw then dances with his mother and steers them both into the marked position, where Marco kills both of them with a single shot from his rifle. Marco prepares to kill himself, but Eugenie, who saw Shaw's nod, arrives and stops him.
The FBI decides to protect Marco's innocence by framing a deceased Manchurian Global contractor as the shooter. The Manchurian executives watch their entire conspiracy revealed on television, but make no attempt to flee, knowing the truth's exposure has left them nowhere to run. In the last scene, Eugenie takes Marco to the compound where he was conditioned, which by now the FBI has found. Marco proceeds to drop Shaw's Medal of Honor into the sea.
Tina Sinatra was a co-producer of the film. Her father Frank Sinatra portrayed Marco in the original 1962 film and owned that film's legal distribution rights into the late 1980s, never re-releasing it during that time (although it did air on network television several times). In the original, nationally released during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the premise was based on communists taking control; in this remake, big corporate influence serves as the evil faction, a twist to maintain the "Manchurian connection." The remake does not follow the original film's plot details on several occasions.
The film grossed $65,955,630 in North America and $30,150,334 in other territories, totaling $96,105,964 worldwide.
The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 81% approval rating, based on 201 reviews, with an average rating score of 7.1/10. Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 76, based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote of Streep: "No one can talk about the acting in The Manchurian Candidate without rhapsodizing about Streep (in the role originated by Angela Lansbury). She has the Hillary hair and the Karen Hughes attack-dog energy, but the charm, the inspiration and the constant invention are her own. She gives us a senator who's a monomaniac, a mad mommy and master politician rolled into one, a woman firing on so many levels that no one can keep up – someone who loves being evil as much as Streep loves acting. She's a pleasure to watch and to marvel at every second she's onscreen."
|2005||Saturn Award||Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film||The Manchurian Candidate||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Liev Schreiber||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Meryl Streep||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award||Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Nominated|
|Black Reel Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Jeffrey Wright||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Kimberly Elise||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||Meryl Streep||Nominated|
The film released on VHS and DVD on December 21, 2004.
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