As a political and military thriller, The Manchurian Candidate raises the question of what could happen if someone running for public office were to be psychologically altered to obey the commands of a global corporation. As a movie, it falls short of raising any interesting questions other than, “Who knows what now and when did they learn it?” and falls even further short of both of the two possible points for movies: to entertain or to enlighten.
Denzel Washington is a superb actor, regardless of the movie’s quality, and deserves recognition for his work. His protrayal of paranoia was refreshingly non-stereotypical. Particularly because the character wasn’t actually paranoid or delusional, but he and the audience are the only people who really know that. The world around him says he is paranoid and delusional, but he doesn’t think so. How many people who are paranoid and delusional think they are just that? What’s the difference between someone who thinks they aren’t paranoid in a rational fashion and not? Could we tell the difference? If there is anything to be taken from this film, it’s to think that maybe the crazy person you meet on the street isn’t as crazy as you think.
For the rest of the movie, I asked at several points if the actors playing the various roles felt stupid saying what they were saying. Most of the roles are awkwardly delivered as though the suit of the character doesn’t quite fit but works well enough. On the good side, the final twist in the plot is unexplained and lets the audience come to its own conclusions as to how it happened. Any film that allows such interpretation and pulls off a story of some kind without beating me over the head with the details scores some points in my book.