Dubby Bhagat


The ‘Manchurian Candidate’ has a brilliant storyline plus it has got (my opinion) one of the greatest performances of 2004 by an actress who should have been given an Oscar. Meryl Streep has a record number of nomination to her credit and has won two Oscars. She made history by leaving her first Oscar in the Academy Awards ladies loo. With twelve nominations under her belt, she would break The Oscar Award nomination records (held by Katherine Hepburn) with a thirteenth. Meryl Streep’s ‘Manchurian Candidate’ is the second version of the film. The first was made in 1987 and had a star cast with Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury acting. The story was about a brain washed political candidate who is a decorated war hero and is about to hand America over to the Chinese unless Frank Sinatra can prevent it from happening. Angela Lansbury won an Oscar nomination for her role as the political wannabe’s domineering mother. She didn’t get the Oscar but went down in the history of films as the greatest dragon lady of her day. Meryl Streep is much much better than Lansbury in the 2004 version of The Manchurian Candidate which is directed by Jonathan Demme and has Denzel Washington in the Frank Sinatra role.

To suit an election year the story has been modified so that Big Business brainwashes army hero sergeant Shaw, subtly played by Leiv Schreiber, and plots to put him into the White House with the help of his mother Meryl Streep. People consider this thriller as a fictional version of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ with Streep as a sort of George Bush in drag.

Says critic Bret Fetzer, “The ‘Manchurian Candidate’ gets a cunning update, rife with hot-topic references to corporate war profiteering.” Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington,) has been haunted by nightmares ever since a firefight during the first Gulf War- a battle in which he believes he was saved by the heroism of Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber). But Marco’s nightmares suggest other wise and drive him to investigate what happened, which may threaten Shaw’s candidacy for vice-president. Meryl Streep plays Shaw’s mother, a senior senator who manipulates everyone around her with an iron will and a sharp tongue. Meryl Streep said, “The film is timely because we’re all politicised and thinking about politics, so it’s a good time to have a movie that played into that arena.’’

‘The Manchurian Candidate’ is full of suspense and the pace is terrific. You sit at the edge of your seat as you watch Denzel Washington try to get to the truth before Meryl Streep and the corporation she represents hurtle towards their goal of putting their candidate into the White House. Both versions of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ owe alot to another film about brain washing called Telefon which starred Charles Bronson and had Russian agents being brain washed and made active by a telephone call and a bit of poetry. ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, too, is brought to life by a telephone call and a few words. The 1962 ‘Manchurian Candidate’ was directed by the famous John Frankenheimer and Mick Martin and Marsha Porter wrote, ‘’This cold-war black comedy is still topical, chilling, and hilarious. Frank Sinatra gives a superbly controlled performance as a Korean War veteran who begins to believe that the honored heroics of a former member of his squad (Laurence Harvey) may be the product of brainwashing by an enemy with even more sinister designs. A delicate balance between hilarity and horror. It is available and it’s great comparing the two.

Despite 19 films to his credit Jonathan Demme is best known for Silence of The Lambs for which he won an Oscar and with The Manchurian Candidate he is likely to be put back on the track of the lamb. He says, “I did ‘ Silence of The Lambs’ about ten years ago. I had a lot of fun working in that arena. It’s like ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, it’s about good people trying to do good things under extreme negative circumstances, and really brilliant bad people exerting really scary dangerous forces on the other side. I like that as a filmmaker and a moviegoer, and this is meant to be a very gripping, disturbing picture.” The Manchurian Candidate is not a masterpiece but it is to quote a critic, “A highly effective, hugely entertaining, timely, paranoid political thriller.”