For the most part, Denzel Washington does not disappoint. He has always been one of Hollywood’s most respected and consistent actors of our generation. In The Manchurian Candidate, which can now be seen on Netflix, he is again at the top of his game while being surrounded by a solid supporting cast, led by Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber.
The Manchurian Candidate, a remake of the 1962 film of the same name, which in turn was based on the 1959 novel of the same name, is a psychological political thriller in every sense of the word. Denzel Washington stars as Major Bennett Marco, a veteran of the Gulf War. He was the leader of a very famous raid during the war which resulted in SFC Raymond Shaw receiving the Medal of Honor for single-handedly defeating taking out the enemy and rescuing every soldier but two.
Now, Shaw is a famous US Congressman, and his mother, the ruthless Virginia Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (Meryl Streep) is using everything she has in her power to nab her son a Vice President nomination. Though famous, Raymond is shy and withdrawn, opening up to only his mother and his childhood sweetheart Jocelyn Jordan (Vera Farmiga), daughter of Senator Thomas Jordan (Jon Voight).
Marco is approached by one of his former soldiers, Al Melvin, who tells Marco that he has been having strange dreams about their time during the war. Clearly, there is something wrong with Melvin, but he also shows Marco drawings of his dreams. Soon after, Marco begins to have the same dreams about their raid and how he and Raymond were kidnapped and brainwashed to kill members of their platoon. Their captors in his dreams include a South African scientist. The dream is so disturbing to Marco that he begins to investigate it.
Now in New York City, Marco is befriended by an extremely outgoing supermarket clerk, Eugenie, who offers him a place to stay. Strange. But Marco does and while showering in her apartment, Marco feels a small lump in his upper back. Marco uses a knife to dig at it, pulling out a tiny metallic object. Eugenie has been listening at the door and when she breaks into the bathroom, Marco accidentally drops the object down the sink drain.
Marco then confronts Raymond. When Raymond doesn’t listen, Marco attacks him, biting into Raymond’s back and removing the same metallic object. Marco has the implant analyzed discovering that it is nanotechnological in nature. The tech is an experiment tied to Manchurian Global, a very powerful private-equity firm with deep political ties.
The more research Marco does, the more disturbing information he finds. He tracks down the South African scientist in his dreams, Dr. Atticus Noyle, who is a former Manchurian geneticist. Now, Noyle is a mercenary.
Marco takes his findings to Senator Jordan, who in turn confronts the Shaws. Jordan pushes for Raymond to withdraw from the campaign, but Senator Shaw won’t have it. Instead, she “activates” her son to kill Senator Jordan. Raymond does but, in the process, also kills Jocelyn when she tries to stop him.
Meanwhile, Eugenie reveals to Marco that she is FBI and they have been monitoring the Manchurian conspiracy for years. She needs to get both Marco and Raymond together to convince them they were brainwashed for an assassination plot. This all happens when Raymond’s presidential running mate, Governor Arthur wins the White House.
Now, Marco gets a call from Eleanor, using trigger words to activate him into assassinating the President-elect, thus making Raymond the new President. Who lives, who dies?
Denzel Washington’s The Manchurian Candidate is a remake of the Frank Sinatra 1962 classic. While the Washington version keeps the same title, the story does depart from the original in many ways. First off, the was brought into the present day, so it had to be updated from the Korean War to the Gulf War. With that in mind, the new movie couldn’t follow the original in that the original had Marco captured and brainwashed by the Chinese in Manchuria, so in the new film, Manchuria was turned into the multinational company Manchurian.
What is notable about Denzel Washington’s The Manchurian Candidate is that The Chairman of the Board’s daughter, Tina, co-produced the film. Her father’s film had gone through many rumors to include Frankie removing the movie from release after the JFK assassination in 1963. But that rumor was put to rest by Michael Schlesinger, the man responsible for the film’s rerelease in 1987. Schlesinger basically said it was a bad deal that took the film off the market for such a long time and a new deal was struck for the rerelease.
Director Jonathan Demme brought Denzel Washington’s version to the big screen. Critically, the movie was a hit, and it even did okay at the box office, bringing home a little over $96 million on its $80 million budget. But critics found the updated material solid and loved the way Streep played her part with vicious glee.
For Denzel Washington, it was another solid performance, one fans have come to expect. It’s hard to say that The Manchurian Candidate came at a time in Washington’s career when it was on an upswing because he’s never truly been down. While certain movies may not have hit with all audiences, it is never Washington’s performance that gets criticized.
Early on, Denzel Washington was best known for his role on the hit TV series, St. Elsewhere. Yes folks, for those who are not aware, Washington got his big break on a television show. He played Dr. Phillip Chandler for the entire six seasons run.
During his time on St. Elsewhere, Washington began to make a name for himself on features. He was in Carbon Copy, the highly acclaimed A Soldier’s Story, and Cry Freedom. After St. Elsewhere, Washington concentrated fully on features, grabbing one great movie after the next, giving one great performance after another.
Denzel Washington frequently collaborates with big-time directors such as Spike Lee, Tony Scott, and Antoine Fuqua and has two Academy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards to go along with a Tony Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. The man is highly thought of in Hollywood circles.
Since starring as Robert McCall in the 2014 feature remake of the TV series The Equalizer, Denzel Washington hasn’t been very active, only having made five movies in that timeframe. His latest movie was the crime thriller The Little Things where he played a deputy sheriff on the hunt for a serial killer.
Next up for the multi-award-winning actor is The Tragedy of Macbeth. But if you need your Denzel Washington fix, head over to Netflix and give The Manchurian Candidate a go.