BEST AND WORST REMAKES: BEST #8 – THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
Much like RoboCop, the Manchurian Candidate is about dark forces turning people into soulless machines, only to have the annoyance of humanity and free will fight their way back to the surface.
The original Manchurian Candidate was a tale of cold war diabolism: the villain was the Communist Bloc, the heroes were civilian war heroes — banged up a bit, but confident they’re still on the right side. Nothing less than the fabric of a transparent democracy is at stake. It’s a great, taut picture, and one of few where I actually like Frank Sinatra.
But, if truth be told, I do prefer Jonathan Demme’s 2004 remake. The battlefield and the cabal behind it are different, but the end goal remains the same. Here, the multi-national corporation Manchurian Global is sinking its claws into soldiers with experimental nanotechnology, making them puppets. One such puppet is on the verge of winning the candidacy for vice-president, and, well, you get the drift of where it’s headed.
Transparency in government has been a huge topic for decades. Those who give the king the crown can take the crown away. It’s terrifying to see candidates from both sides of the aisle beg for campaign dollars from invisible billionaires and faceless corporations. What’s the will of the people really mean when someone asks you to make good on their loan?
Everyone’s at the top of their game here: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Wright, Kimberly Elise, Vera Farmiga, Jon Voight. Wright’s paranoid psychotic is hypnotic, as much as the mentally broken son Schreiber plays. Denzel can never do any wrong in my eyes: no one else can play a man holding onto his sanity with chewed fingernails like him.
Maybe my favorite part is its end, where the conspirators of Manchurian Global realize, in their almost naive megalomania, that the true face of government is something not to fuck with. They confused free will, openness, and freedom for weakness. In my hopeful days, I hope that’s as true in real life as it is in the movies.