The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
I like ambitious projects by bold directors. And although Jonathan Demme more often than not has failed in reaching the heights of his ambitions, he keeps making films about important and fascinating issues. The remake of The Manchurian Candidate is a welcomed try and a to a large extent an effective film. It has an appealing seclusive feel to it that makes it a good mystery and it has engaging performances by all the three leads. Denzel Washington is sufficiently energetic, Meryl Streep is wonderfully exhibitionistic and Liev Schreiber is delightfully quirky. The latter surprising the most, as he with Streep creates a highly interesting relation.
The premise of the film is interesting enough, but Demme exaggerates somewhat, making his film as 'classic 70s political paranoia thriller meets The Stepford Wives'. As a thriller though, it works as good as any, and has most of the classic traits. One of these is of course the protagonist's anti-social confidant, here played virtuously by Bruno Ganz.
The characters keep their relevance throughout, but Demme can't quite contain his material and the film at times goes over the top. The Jon Voight character is an anchor of sensibility whose presence should have been kept, and the film loses weight after his final appearance. The climax finale too becomes problematic and cheats itself. If not for a beautiful Streep/Schreiber-moment towards the end, it could have put the film out of business. Fortunately, it stays impressive as a character drama, but unfortunately, as a total, The Manchurian Candidate becomes a bit to far fetched.