Written by Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Running Time: 2:07
for violence and some language.
The Manchurian Candidate was a very slow and deliberate film that wasn't very entertaining until the end, but that wasn't enough to save the film as a whole.
Raymond Shaw is an up and coming politician from New York, being groomed to some day be President. His entire career has been built upon the legacy of his parents, and an incident during the Gulf War where he supposedly saved the lives of all the men in his group, except for two. The man he served under, Ben Marco, also believes the story of how Shaw saved everyone during an ambush. But Marco also has these dreams where he sees that maybe something different has happened. As he gets closer and closer to the truth, people around him start to die. Raymond Shaw is not what he seems, but the question is, who is pulling the strings? And can Marco uncover enough evidence to take them all down? Or is he just another pawn in the game?
The first 90 minutes of The Manchurian Candidate I found to be rather boring. It was very slow moving, and every point needed to be hammered home, instead of continuing forward. While the movie did pick up steam towards the end, it also raised a lot of questions that didn't make a lot of sense to me. For such a star studded group, I didn't find the movie compelling at all. Be warned, the next paragraph is going to contain some serious spoilers that will completely ruin the film, so if you don't want to know what happens, skip the next paragraph.
What was the true story of what happened during the ambush? Did it actually ever take place, or was that part of the 'treatment' they were all given? I'll accept the idea that Shaw was picked because of his mother's influence and Manchurian Global wanted to be in bed with her. So they pick Shaw, and set up an ambush? Or did they somehow drug all the members of the team and take them away? How did it all actually work? That was never explained, nor can I actually figure it out from the information given. Too many holes to plug. Timing was another issue. All this takes place within a few months of the Presidential election. Why now? Why did they wait almost 13 years before moving Shaw towards the Presidency? If the idea was to slowly move him up through the political system, then why was there a need to assassinate the incoming President on the day of the election? If they had the patience to wait 13 years, couldn't they wait 4 more? And what are the rules when you're President-elect and you're killed? Does the Vice President-elect get a bump up? I mean, technically, the guy wasn't President yet. Seems to me you'd want to wait until he was officially sworn in, right? And why on Earth would you send Shaw to kill a Senator? Of all the people Manchurian Global and Shaw's mother had under their influence, even on the spur of the moment, why would she sent her own son to commit murder? And with the possibility of witnesses being around? And how does a guy who is running for Vice President end up wandering around alone to begin with? I know at least one of his security detail was in on the plan, but were all of them? And lastly, why in the hell was up with Shaw being kissed by his own mother? That had nothing to do with anything, yet it was thrown in towards the end like it was supposed to mean something. Any credibility the characters had at that point was lost to me at that point.
As I said before, the first 90 minutes of the film kept dragging on and on. There were long speeches that weren't necessary, scenes of Marco doing research that were unnecessary. I felt myself on the verge of napping a few times, and was snapped back to reality because of a couple of funny scenes. Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep are arguably the two best actors working today, and yet I felt nothing when watching them. Streep's character wasn't given much to do except laugh and scheme, but was never convincing as the mastermind behind this massive plot to take over the Presidency. And Denzel, who normally shines even in the worst of films, felt muted and defeated to me. I realize his character was the underdog that we were all supposed to root for, but at some point I would have liked to have seen him gain the upper hand, if only for a moment. He was beaten down every chance he got and so instead of cheering for him, I found myself feeling sorry for him, and somehow, that doesn't feel right in this kind of movie. I had no one I cared for, no one to get behind.
The movie wasn't completely bad. The idea behind it was interesting, if not fully thought out. When the plan started to come together towards the end, I found myself wondering what would happen next, and the ending was somewhat of a shock. I thought the direction was interesting, with director Jonathan Demme using some camera angles that were out of the ordinary. There was a conversation in the beginning between Marco and Al Melvin, played by Jeffrey Wright, that was filmed so that the camera was directly in front of the actor, instead of slightly off to the side in the traditional over-the-shoulder technique. It gave the scene more intensity and importance and made me feel off-kilter. But little things like that couldn't make up for the disappointment I felt for the rest of the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I went in to The Manchurian Candidate hoping for a good, solid movie, considering the stars and the director, but left feeling that it could have been a lot better. There were a lot of holes that needed filling, and a lot of things that could have been cut out. In the end, the only word that really fits is, disappointing.