It's movie recommendation time again here at Ken's Blog, and this time I'm telling you to see the new re-make of The Manchurian Candidate.
I don't usually like, recommend, or even see, re-makes of classic pictures - especially ones as perfect as the original Manchurian Candidate. I have always counted the original among my top 10 favorite films, but for about 15 years now, I've been itching for an update (I've even sketched out a treatment or two for how to update it over the years).
The world has changed quite a bit since 1962, and gotten more and more Orwellian since 1984. The parts of the story that had to be over-explained to try and make it believable in the original are ordinary and accepted now, allowing the new version to cut back in those areas and to go deeper into the paranoia and the depths of the conspiracy. Even knowing how the story had to progress, and what the end result had to be, I was still riveted to my seat.
Yes, there are some changes. The character played by James Gregory in the original is eliminated, allowing Meryl Streep to assume both the Angela Lansbury role and parts of Gregory's. Liev Schreiber's performance is the closest to the original's Lawrence Harvey, but adding in new elements by picking up the rest of Gregory's duties. Kimberly Elise picks up the Janet Leigh role with modern overtones, and John Voigt gives the John McGiver role some balls. Finally, Denzel Washington does a stunningly brilliant turn at the lead originally played by Frank Sinatra.
The changes were enough to make it fresh, and add a few fun twists. But, where it counted, the story is true to the original, and as powerful as ever. The twists, I think, were necessary. In 2004 Meryl Streep can get away with things that Angela Lansbury (wonderful as she is/was) never could back in 1962. The changes also fix one or two of the minor holes in the original, although they do bring up one or two new lesser ones.
Leslie had never seen the original, but she also found it a powerful and compelling movie, and enjoyed the flow of the storyline, even if it did make one a bit tense at times. All in all, a tight updating of a classic that is not only timely, but is a great movie experience besides.