Allow my skepticism going into "The Manchurian Candidate," as it violates my strong moral conviction against patronizing remakes of classic films.
After all, director Jonathan Demme butchered the air-tight and classy "Charade" a couple of years ago. That said, this exciting film, which replaces communism with unchecked global capitalism as the manipulative villain, provides the summer's finest entertainment for adults tired of endless monosyllabic CGI action fests.
Timely set during a Presidential election, "Candidate" exploits our collective paranoid fantasies. Claustrophobic with its small, sweaty spaces and frenetic with a camera that pinballs against the borders of its parallel universe, "Candidate" unravels its labyrinthine plot with laser-sighted precision. Director Demme understands the intricacies of plotting as he builds tension to a hair pulling climax that betters the original.
Complex plots are tricky to pull off and "Candidate" unspools with a linear clarity, making it easy to follow.
The film's success is buoyed by a crackerjack cast working with an articulate script. Denzel Washington, replacing Frank Sinatra, is a flawed, weakened, unsure hero. His is a performance of vulnerability and helplessness tempered by intelligence. Meryl Streep appears to channel the dark sides of Elizabeth Dole and Pat Schroeder as the ultimate in Lady Macbeth/Jocasta amalgamations of evil. Liev Schreivner creates a vivid portrait of a man oscillating between articulate heroic perfection and icy automaton.
There will be Oscar nominations in this cast's future.
John Remington teaches language arts and acting at Pendleton High School.