Film & DVD Review: The Manchurian Candidate

Director: Jonathan Demme
Certificate R (USA) 15 (UK)
Running Time 129 mins

Reviewed by Betty Wood

I approached the viewing of this film already slightly bored by the current trend for the remaking of old films and in a week in which the Alfie remake had gone straight to Number 5 in the Screen Charts.

Not convinced that a remake of the 1962 Cold War classic targeting Communism and starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury had anything relevant to say today, I found that I was slowly, scene by scene, drawn into this complicated, rich tale full of complex and dangerous characters. This is not an action film, although there are scenes of war and assasinations but a hypnotic story of mind control, the political power exerted by large, global firms.

From the opening scenes of soldiers playing cards before going into action, the story goes back and forward in time and focus, moving between the main protaganists.

As the story, which begins in Kuwait in 1991, unfolds against the current day tensions of elections for the Vice-President, we begin to see US Army Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) begin to doubt the reality of his 1991 Gulf War experince in which his Platoon (apart form two soldiers who died in the desert) was saved by Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber).

I’m not going to describe the story in detail except to say that it raises serious questions about the tie-ins between political power and big corporations; the use of mind control techniques on combatants;the use also of personal power in the steely character of Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (Meryl Streep), who is Seargeant Shaw’s Mother.

The ending of the film is slightly contrived as the film’s pace changes and it seems to rush to present a conclusion which ties up the loose ends.

The acting in this film is of a high calibre particularly Meryl Streep’s character who was so icy and powerful she made me shudder at times. The scenes with Streep, Washington and Schreiber were absolute stunners. The very deliberate camerawork focusing intently on the actors faces, showing every nuance of emotion, added to the imapact and contrasted beautifully with other scenically powerful shots of burning oil fields and staggeringly high skylines.

Smaller but equally significant roles were played by Jon Voight as Senator Thomas Jordan, by Jeffrey Wright as Corporal Al Melvin (a member of the saved platoon who is having strange and disturbing dreams).

Kimberly Elise as Rosie, a Federal Agent assigned to track Marco and learn what he knows is a key character. Previously unknown to me I was impressed by here performance and look forward to seeing her again.

Full Cast and Crew for Manchurian Candidate, The (2004)

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Writing credits

  • Richard Condon (novel)
  • George Axelrod (1962 screenplay)
  • Daniel Pyne (screenplay) and
  • Dean Georgaris (screenplay) Cast (in credits order)
  • Denzel Washington …. Ben Marco
  • Meryl Streep …. Eleanor Shaw
  • Liev Schreiber …. Raymond Shaw
  • Jeffrey Wright …. Al Melvin
  • Kimberly Elise …. Rosie
  • Jon Voight …. Senator Thomas Jordan
  • Ted Levine …. Colonel Howard
  • Miguel Ferrer …. Colonel Garret
  • Bruno Ganz …. Delp
  • Tom Stechschulte …. Robert Arthur
  • Pablo Schreiber …. Eddie Ingram
  • Anthony Mackie …. Robert Baker
  • Dorian Missick …. Owens
  • Jose Pablo Cantillo …. Villalobos
  • Teddy Dunn …. Wilson
  • Joaquin Perez-Campbell …. Atkins
  • Tim Artz …. Jameson
  • Robyn Hitchcock …. Laurent Tokar
  • Antoine Taylor …. Boy Scout #1
  • Joseph Alessi …. Boy Scout #2
  • Raymond Anthony Thomas …. Scout Dad (as Ray Anthony Thomas)
  • Bill Irwin …. Scoutmaster
  • Al Franken …. TV Commentator
  • Paul Lazar …. Gillespie
  • Danny Darst …. Ellie’s Mysterious Aide
  • Stephanie McBride …. Political Aide
  • Molly Hickock …. Political Aide
  • Victoria Haynes …. Political Aide
  • Adam LeFevre …. Congressman Healy
  • Roger Corman …. Mr. Secretary
  • Leona E. Sondreal …. Green Room Official #2
  • Zeljko Ivanek …. Vaughn Utly
  • Jim Roche …. Senator from Florida
  • Ann Dowd …. Congresswoman Becket
  • Obba Babatundé …. Senator Wells
  • Harry Northup …. Congressman Flores (as Harry Northrup)
  • James Beattie Howard …. Himself
  • Walter Mosley …. Congressman Rawlins
  • Gordon Brummer …. “Gordy”
  • Gayle King …. Media Icon
  • Brad Holbrook …. Newscaster #7
  • Stacey Newsome-Santiago …. Roving Reporter
  • Kristen Shaughnessy …. Newscaster #4
  • Prue Lewarne …. Newscaster #8
  • Forrest Sawyer …. Newscaster #1
  • Ukee Washington …. Newscaster #9
  • Ed Crane …. Newscaster #6
  • Kaity Tong …. Newscaster #2
  • Roma Torre …. Newscaster #3 (as Roma Torre-Lopez)
  • William Meisle …. Tyler Prentiss
  • Dan Olmstead …. Senator John Shaw
  • Sakina Jaffrey …. Mysterious Arabic Woman
  • Simon McBurney …. Atticus Noyle
  • Charles Napier …. General Sloan
  • Robert W. Castle …. General Wilson (as Robert Castle)
  • John Aprea …. Rear Admiral Glick
  • Jane DeNoble …. Robert Arthur’s Wife
  • Vera Farmiga …. Jocelyne Jordan
  • Jude Ciccolella …. David Donovan
  • Dean Stockwell …. Mark Whiting
  • John Bedford Lloyd …. Jay “J.B.” Johnston
  • David Keeley …. Agent Evan Anderson
  • Christopher M. Russo …. Secret Service Agent #1
  • Michael C. Pierce …. Secret Service Agent #2
  • Marin Ireland …. Army Transcriber
  • Glen Hartell …. Army Transcriber
  • Tracey Walter …. Night Clerk
  • Alyson Renaldo …. Mirella Freeman
  • Edwidge Danticat …. Rosie’s Cousin
  • Kenneth Utt …. Rosie’s Cousin’s Mentor (as Kenny Utt)
  • Enrique Correa …. Reporter #2
  • David Neumann …. Reporter #3
  • Neda Armian …. Reporter #4
  • Paul Johnson …. Campaign Security
  • James Michael McCauley …. FBI Agent Jonas (as James McCauley)
  • BeBe Winans …. FBI Agent Williams
  • Darrell Larson …. FBI Agent Ramirez
  • Kate Valk …. Agent Volk
  • Beau Sia …. Late Night Comedian
  • Duana Butler …. Library Clerk
  • Big Jim Wheeler …. Library Patron
  • Lauren Roselli …. Jordan’s Aide
  • Stephen Richardson …. Jordan’s Aide
  • Shing Ka …. Rosie’s Sidekick
  • Malcolm Simpson …. Yelling Kid
  • Cassius Kumar Wilkinson …. “Abe Lincoln” (as Cassius Wilkinson)
  • Josephine Demme …. “Statue of Liberty”
  • Gabriela Fung …. “Betsy Ross”
  • Denzel Delahoussaye …. “George Washington”
  • Aaron Scoenfeld …. “Uncle Sam”
  • Geovonne Long …. “MLK”
  • Jonathan Borst …. “JFK”
  • Michael Shehata …. “American Eagle”
  • Tom Chapin …. Governor Edward Nelson
  • Jiggs Walker …. Churchgoer (as Lewis ‘Jiggs’ Walker)
  • Joey Perillo …. Jimmy
  • Buzz Kilman …. The Guy with the Shades
  • Marie Runyon …. Arthur’s Mother
  • Eliza Simpson …. Arthur’s Child
  • Julie Adamy …. Arthur’s Child
  • Andre B. Blake …. Victory Party Director
  • Tymberly Canale Harris …. Victory Party Celebrity Soldier
  • Lilly McDowell …. Shaw’s Aide
  • Joshua Elrod …. Shaw’s Aide (as Josh Elrod)
  • Craig Branam …. Klaus Bachman
  • Sidney Lumet …. Political Pundit
  • Anna Deavere Smith …. Political Pundit
  • Roy Blount Jr. …. Political Pundit
  • Fab Five Freddy …. Political Pundit Rest of cast listed alphabetically
  • Reggie Austin …. Skid Row Resident #1 (uncredited)
  • Jaclynn Tiffany Brown …. Campaign Staffer (uncredited)
  • E. Jean Carroll …. Reporter #5 (uncredited)
  • Wally Dunn …. Burly Passenger (uncredited)
  • Daryl Edwards …. Train Conductor (uncredited)
  • Reginald Footman …. Skid Row Resident #2 (uncredited)
  • Ann Pearl Gary …. Skid Rown Resident #4 (uncredited)
  • James Howard …. Political Party Member (uncredited)
  • Hugh Karraker …. TV Moderator (uncredited)
  • Jeremy Knaster …. Caretaker (uncredited)
  • Carol Jean Lewis …. Abby (uncredited)
  • Al Lopez …. Waiter (uncredited)
  • Pete Macnamara …. FBI Agent (uncredited)
  • Dorothy Maneiro Brown …. Choir Soloist (uncredited)
  • Josh Mowery …. VP Candidate (uncredited)
  • Reno …. Pundit #2 (uncredited)
  • Michelle Roberson …. Skid Row Resident #3 (uncredited)
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