The Manchurian Candidate

Rated 2.0 This blustery Oedipal update of the harrowing Cold War thriller is based on George Axelrod’s screenplay for director John Frankenheimer’s 1962 film, which itself was adapted from Richard Condon’s somewhat prophetic novel. Political paranoia hits the proverbial fan when an American Army officer (Denzel Washington) bristles at the odor of conspiracy that emanates from the similar fractured nightmares he shares with fellow post-Operation Desert Storm soldiers. It seems that a formerly enlisted senator (Liev Schreiber) may not have earned his Medal of Honor for bravery during an ambush but instead is part of a far-right brainwashing plot to entrench a wingnut pawn as president of the United States. The acting—especially by Meryl Streep as manipulative political stage mom—is excellent, but the original film worked also as delicious satire, where this wannabe cousin to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 ignites unintentional laughs. And leave it to The Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme to include a scene in which a microchip implant is violently gnawed from the back of its human carrier.