The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Rating: C

Dir: Jonathan Demme
Star: Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep, Kimberly Elise

Demme’s second straight “re-imagining” is more effective than The Trouble With Charlie (a version of Charade that replaced Audrey Hepburn with… Thandie Newton. ‘Nuff said), but I suspect would have been better off staying closer to the original. Demme twists a relatively straightforward psycho-drama into convolutions; a squad of soldiers is brainwashed into believing Shaw (Schrieber) is a war hero, in order to boost his credentials as a presidential running-mate. You mean they can’t just buy their way onto the ticket like everyone else does?

It says something about the modern era that big business is the villain, though as personified by Meryl Streep, you won’t hear me arguing. I don’t have a lot of time for Ms. Streep, but one scene, where she single-handedly convinces her party to put Shaw on the ticket, makes me feel the Academy should save themselves six months and give her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar now. It’s about the only aspect in which this surpasses the original; while Washington is effective, playing the squad commander who eventually realises “something” is up, there are entirely too many shots of him staring intently into the camera. I imagine this is Demme’s way of conveying angst or summat, and it doesn’t work. I wasn’t too impressed with the ending either, which feels like the inevitable result of test marketing. Overall, it’s a film that needs to go for the jugular, but too often ends up merely nibbling on a digit.