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The Manchurian Candidate

This summer everything is under control. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate is a political thriller to its core; successfully updating the original cold war classic and giving it a distinctly 2004 feel. Out go the shadowy communists from the 1960s version and in comes a sinister global corporation, with the power to buy anything or anyone. This makes the narrative much harder hitting, given the current climate of suspicion regarding the activities and political connections of certain multinational corporations.

The political process itself is integral to the narrative, as the action unfolds against the backdrop of a US Presidential Election. Yet the film avoids being waylaid on politics, and concentrates instead on Ben Marco's (Washington) search for the truth about what really happened to him, and his men, when they were ambushed in the Kuwaiti desert during the first gulf war - and how those events connect to the aforementioned election. His quest slowly builds pace until he possesses all the facts, but by then the conspirators are close to achieving their prime objective and it remains to be seen if he can stop a far worse crime from taking place.

Washington is the undisputed star, giving an incredibly intense performance as a man who could either solve the conspiracy or drive himself to insanity in the process. It is a credit to him that he's able to maintain this mystery right up until the wire; leaving the audience constantly guessing as to what the final outcome will be. And his is by no means the only excellent performance; a mention must go to Schreiber as Raymond Shaw - the Vice Presidential Candidate and former member of Marco's unit, who flickers between appearing presidential or deranged at a whim. However, it is Streep, as his power-crazed mother, who steals every screen she is in.

Overall, this picture has done what few thought possible: rework a classic and come out with a tense, chilling and thought provoking film. The acting is as you'd expect from such a strong cast and never disappoints, nor does the stylish direction, which sets the right pace to the action. In other words, miss it at your peril.

James Kopka

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)
2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)