The Manchurian Candidate

August 22, 2009 - The classic film from 1962 gets an update in this 2004 remake from director Jonathan Demme. In this version, Denzel Washington takes over the role originated by Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep replaces Angela Lansbury as the power-hungry mother, and Liev Schreiber is her son, the candidate.

While the original film referenced Communism and the Korean Conflict, the remake utilizes global terrorism and the first Gulf War as the backdrop for a tale of political intrigue. Washington plays Maj. Ben Marco, who led a company of soldiers on a reconnaissance mission in Kuwait in 1991. That company included Raymond Shaw, the privileged son of a politically powerful family. During the mission, the company is ambushed and goes missing for three days. When they're finally found, the surviving members recall Shaw as a hero and he is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Fast forward to the early years of the 21st century and Shaw is a congressman on the cusp of being nominated for vice president. His mother (Streep) is a powerful senator who wants to make sure that her son eventually becomes president, sooner rather than later. Her plan for making it happen was set in motion years ago, and now it could end up costing a lot of people their lives.

Overall review: ** I haven't seen the original, so I can’t compare. Speaking just for this movie, my overall impression was that it seemed a little disjointed, like there were gaps that needed to be filled in and questions that needed to be answered. Which isn't to say that the film was hard to follow, because it wasn't. But, I would have liked more information. I did think Streep was good as the mother who cloaked her egomaniacal personal and political ambitions in patriotism. We've seen that before, haven't we?