Movie Review: The Manchurian Candidate
January 02, 2008

Denzel Washington is good at being a sympathetic character. In "The Manchurian Candidate," which I believe reading at some point or another is a remake of an earlier film bearing the same name, he puts that charisma to good use portraying a soldier named Ben who remembers a horrific night in Iraq when he and his men came under attack... then were saved by a comrade at arms. As the movie progresses, though, he begins to think that--implausible as it may seem--those memories aren't quite right.

"The Manchurian Candidate" was supposed to be a thrill ride. To me that suggests car chases and shootouts, but there's remarkably little of that in a movie that is more about intellectual stimulation than anything. Certain plot twists are a bit on the absurd side if you stop to think about them, though, so it feels like the movie is tugging the viewer in too many directions at once. On the one hand, you're supposed to appreciate the deep message the film theoretically delivers, but then you're not supposed to think about it hard enough that you start looking carefully at certain improbabilities in the plot.

To keep a rein on the direction your thoughts wander, director Jonathan Demme spends a lot of time showing things we don't really need to see. A lot of it is simply misdirection, no doubt meant to distract you so that you're too busy sorting through everything to realize that the core story hardly makes sense. There's also far too much introspection. Each main actor at some point in the movie gets a chance to look thoughtful, bewildered and horrified. Each long hallway is thoroughly explored, each throng of people lazily panned. Sometimes, it's just a bit much. In fact, almost every scene could've been improved if a few seconds or even the occasional minute had been shaved away completely.

Of course, saying anything more about the plot would be doing you a disservice if you choose to watch the movie for yourself, so I won't touch on just what makes things both interesting and unbelievable. "The Manchurian Candidate" is as much about surprises as it is about scenes that don't know when to quit, and frequently delivers plenty of both. Whether or not that makes it a good movie or not will depend on your preferences, of course. As for me, I enjoyed the viewing but can't really recommend the film to anyone but those who adore the serious political thriller. Even if that's you, proceed with caution. "Thriller" is subjective.


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LegacyGaming LegacyGaming - January 02, 2008 (07:10 AM)
Denzel does do a great job in most of his movies, specifically John Q. and Deja Vu which I throughly enjoyed.
daff daff - January 02, 2008 (04:02 PM)
I tried watching this movie and fell asleep somewhere in the middle. I almost never pass out during movies.

Man on Fire might be my favorite Denzel Washington Movie.

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