Captain Ben Marco is having strange dreams. He is a veteran of the Gulf War. He knows what happened in the Middle East, but he doesn’t remember. His dreams turn into nightmares that seem like memories. He remembers serving with a man named Raymond Shaw who is now a congressman. Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being he’s ever known in his life. At least he thinks he is. Captain Marco is unsure of his memories until he runs into Corporal Al Melvin who says that he’s been having strange dreams.
Captain Marco needs answers and sets out on a mission to find Congressman Shaw. When he finds out the truth about his strange dreams It is a plot more sinister than he could ever imagine. Based on the novel by Richard Condon and the 1962 film staring Frank Sinatra, The Manchuria Candidate is part political thriller and psychological horror. It’s even been described as having sci-fi elements. While not quite as compelling as the original film, it’s themes are relevant in today’s age of rogue politicians and conspiracy theories. This film presents a world where mind control is utilized on the innocent, politicians are owned by corporations and anyone who speaks the truth is silenced.
Director Johnathan Demme creates a haunting atmosphere. He mixes political intrigue and mystery in a way that keeps you engaged with the story. Through sequences of nightmarish visions and hallucinations, he creates a film that’s ethereal. Demme doesn’t give you everything in terms of certain events in the film. He implies instead of showing, leaving the viewer to fill in the details.
Denzel Washington gives a captivating performance as Captain Ben Marco. Jeffrey Wright haunts the screen as Corporal Al Melvin, and Meryl Streep owns the screen as Eleanor Shaw, the mother of Raymond Shaw. Liev Schreiber is excellent as the mind controlled politician Raymond Shaw.
This film is a great watch not for its perfect execution but the themes that are presented and it’s relevance to our current political climate.