Movie Poster
The Manchurian Candidate
Jonathan Demme
Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Kimberly Elise
130 min.


This is a standard hollywood conspiracy thriller, but it is competently made and surprisingly engaging. In fact there is plenty to recommend about it.

The cast, for example, is well chosen and effective. One of the great triumphs of the film is assembling Miguel Ferrer, Dean Stockwell and Bruno Ganz for the background characters. One of the great disappointments is that none of them is used more. Liev Schreiber is the perfect mix of handsome and creepy. Even Denzel Washington acquits himself pretty well. I usually think of he and Tom Hanks as rough equivalents, but at this point Hanks is still shitty and Denzel is adequate.

The whole film strives to create a feeling of shizoid paranoia, which is reasonably effective. The soundtrack provides little snippets of songs cutting into other snippets, and songs that are mixed below the crowd noise so that they are barely audible. This is not merely effective but affective. Frequently shot-reverse-shot conversations are pushed into mildly creepy by placing the characters' line of view so close to the camera.

While the bad guys work out of the middle east, they have been safely coded as Nazis. The evil South African scientist who is responsible for the brainwashing looks like he just stepped out of Kraftwerk. But there are plenty of twists, and bad guys every where on every side, so it'll keep you entertained until your extra large Pibb runs out.

And listen for the Gang of Four on the soundtrack.

Pat Jackson