Director Jonathan Demme's remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" is eerily effective in bringing the 1962 masterpiece of chilling dark satire and dangerous political corruption up to date for a world in which corporations seemingly pocket candidates, terrorists threaten freedom and fear-mongering has virtually become a campaign platform.
In this new film, the original's stiff, communist-brainwashed war hero and would-be presidential assassin Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) has become an unstable war-hero vice-presidential candidate (Liev Schreiber) made very susceptible to suggestion by a defense-contracting conglomerate (modeled on the Carlyle Group and Halliburton). And his controlling, calculating, daunting and devious behind-the-scenes mother (the brilliantly ominous Angela Lansbury in '62) has become a bulldozing, hawkish senior senator in her own right (played slightly more shrill by Meryl Streep).
An obligatory girlfriend role filled by Janet Leigh 42 years ago is refashioned into someone altogether more pivotal to the plot (a seeming good Samaritan played by Kimberly Elise). And Maj. Bennett Marco, the nightmare-haunted central character (then Frank Sinatra, now Denzel Washington) who pieces together a startling conspiracy, has become a victim of Gulf War Syndrome and at times hangs onto his own sanity by a very thin thread.
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