THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
While not the classic that the John Frankenheimer version is, director Jonathan Demmeís newly updated reworking of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE ($30) is an entertaining political thriller in its own right. Moving the story into a modern setting, this film sheds all of its cold war trappings, replacing the fears of communism, with a new fear of multinational corporations running amok and trying to control things at the top governmental level. Using elements from the Richard Condon novel and George Axelrodís 1962 screenplay, 2004ís THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE follows Major Bennet Marco (Denzel Washington) and the members of his squad, who return from an ill fated Gulf War combat mission-, one that earns Sargent Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Fast-forward about decade, and we find Ben Marco and the other members of the squad suffering from posttraumatic stress syndrome, and plagued by dreams that would seem to indicate that there is something wrong with their all too perfect memories of their mission and the heroic actions of Raymond Shaw. While the years have been unkind to just about every member of the squad, Raymond Shaw is now a congressman, whose mother, Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), is a powerful senator, and pulling political strings to get her son on the fast track to the Vice Presidency. As Raymond Shaw gets closer to the White House, Ben Marcoís paranoid fears that something was genuinely out of place during their mission in Kuwait and that Shaw is the key piece in a very dangerous conspiracy. The cast of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE also features Jeffrey Wright, Kimberly Elise, Jon Voight, Ted Levine, Miguel Ferrer, Al Franken and Roger Corman.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Typical for Paramount and for a new movie, this DVD is solid, providing a crisp and pretty nicely defined image. While colors are well saturated, the flesh tones always appear quite natural. Blacks are deep, whites are clean, plus the image boasts good contrast and shadow detail. The film elements used for the transfer are free from visual imperfections, and the grain structure is usually quite mild. Digital compression artifacts are always well concealed.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE comes with a very solid Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound design can be aggressive when called for, with the battle sequence at the beginning of the film immediately coming to mind, but much of the sound mix is more subtly implemented due to the fact that them movie is a somewhat talky political thriller, which requires more atmosphere than anything else. The forward soundstage dominates much of the time, but the rears always provide good reinforcement, which gives the sound design much of its character. Channel separations are always clean and sounds pan around in a convincing manner. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. The bass channel is deep and authorities when required, and keeps things grounded at all other times. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. Director Jonathan Demme and co-writer Daniel Pyne are on hand to provide a running audio commentary. The Enemy Within: Inside The Manchurian Candidate runs fourteen minutes and is a better than average making of featurette, with a bit less fluff than a typical program of this type. The Cast Of The Manchurian Candidate spends almost twelve minutes with the actors, discussing their characters and each other.
There are approximately nine minutes of Deleted Scenes that can be viewed with or without comments from the director and co-writer. Two Outtakes are also provided, although listing them as such seems a bit odd, since they would appear to be completed sequences and not scenes of actors flubbing lines. Liev Schreiber Screen Test offers some early work by the actor, along with Meryl Streep. Political Pundits offers ten minutes of various actors, journalist & directors discussing the state of political affairs. Finally, the DVD contains previews for LEMONY SNICKETíS A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, WITHOUT A PADDLE, SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE and THE STEPFORD WIVES.
As I stated above, this modern reworking of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE isnít quite the classic that the original film is, but it is a solid political thriller in its own right. Paramount has done their usual fine job with the DVD, offering fine quality video and audio, not to mention some nice extras. If you enjoy this particular genre of thriller, then youíll want to spend some time with THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.
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