The Manchurian Candidate (2004 film)

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The Manchurian Candidate
The Manchurian Candidate poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Demme
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Daniel Pyne
  • Dean Georgaris
Based on
Music byRachel Portman
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Edited by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • July 30, 2004 (2004-07-30)
Running time
130 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million
Box office$96.1 million[2]

The Manchurian Candidate is a 2004 American neo-noir[3] psychological political thriller film directed by Jonathan Demme.[4] The film, based on Richard Condon's 1959 novel of the same name and a re-working of the previous 1962 film, stars Denzel Washington as Bennett Marco, a tenacious, virtuous soldier; Liev Schreiber as Raymond Shaw, a U.S. Representative from New York, manipulated into becoming a vice-presidential candidate; Jon Voight as U.S. Senator Tom Jordan, a challenger for vice president; and Meryl Streep as Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, also a U.S. Senator and the manipulative, ruthless mother of Raymond Shaw.

While the name of the novel and the earlier film was retained, the significance of "Manchurian" was changed. In the original, the protagonist was captured in the Korean War and brainwashed by the Chinese in the actual Manchuria. In the 2004 film, with the Korean War replaced by the Gulf War, Manchurian is used instead as the name of a sinister multinational company.


Major Bennett Marco is a war veteran who commanded a famous U.S. Army raid during the 1991 Gulf War. For his role in that mission, Sergeant First Class Raymond Shaw was awarded the Medal of Honor for single-handedly defeating the enemy and rescuing all but two of his men. In a dystopian near-future (Implied to be 2008) America has became defined by xenophobia, de facto martial law, environmental degradation and increasing corporate control, Shaw is a famous U.S. Congressman. His ruthless mother, Virginia Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, uses her influence to secure his nomination as a vice presidential candidate over the favorite, Senator Tom Jordan. Raymond is shy and withdrawn but opens up to his mother and his childhood sweetheart Jocelyn, Senator Jordan's daughter.

Al Melvin, one of Marco's former soldiers, tells Marco of his confusing memories and dreams about their lost army unit. He is clearly mentally ill, but he shows Marco his drawings of images from his dreams. Soon Marco also dreams of the raid, where he and Raymond are captured and brainwashed to kill members of their platoon. Their captors included scientists led by a mysterious South African man. Marco starts investigating what really happened during the war.

He travels to New York City, where he meets an outgoing supermarket clerk named Eugenie who offers him a place to stay. While taking a shower at Eugenie's apartment, Marco feels a small lump on his upper back. He uses a knife to dig at the spot, and pulls out a tiny metallic object. Eugenie was listening at the door, however, and forces her way into the bathroom after hearing Marco's subtle sounds of distress. Marco accidentally drops the small object down the sink drain.

Marco confronts Raymond at campaign headquarters, wrestles him down, and bites into his back, removing an implant in the process. He has the implant analyzed and finds it is a nanotechnological experiment connected with Manchurian Global, a powerful private equity firm with major political connections. Marco researches the firm and recognizes the South African man from his nightmares is Dr. Atticus Noyle, a former Manchurian geneticist-turned-mercenary. Marco brings his findings to Senator Jordan, who confronts the Shaws and suggests that Raymond withdraw from the campaign. Instead, Eleanor "activates" Raymond and orders him to kill Jordan. Jocelyn is also killed when she tries to stop Raymond.

Eugenie reveals she works for the FBI, which has been monitoring the conspiracy for years. The agency found an implant in Melvin, who—like all of Raymond and Marco's squadmates—died under mysterious circumstances. The FBI arranges a meeting between Marco and Raymond to convince them they were brainwashed under an assassination plot. The meeting takes place just as Governor Arthur and Raymond win the White House. Raymond receives a phone call intended for Marco from Eleanor, who is deeply linked with Manchurian. She uses trigger words to command Marco to assassinate the President-elect so that Raymond can become President. Eleanor admits that she voluntarily gave him to the brainwashers for the good of the country, but the trauma of Jocelyn's death gives Raymond the strength to resist the mind-control techniques.

At the climactic moment, Raymond deliberately places himself between the entranced Marco and the President-elect. As Eugenie rushes through the crowd to find Marco, Raymond looks at the vent where Marco is hiding and nods as a signal to kill the President-elect. Raymond dances with his mother and steers them into the marked position, where Marco kills them both with a single rifle shot. Marco prepares to kill himself, but after seeing Raymond's nod, Eugenie arrives and prevents his suicide by wounding him.

The FBI frames a deceased Manchurian Global contractor as the shooter. Manchurian executives watch their entire conspiracy revealed on television but make no attempt to flee, knowing that the truth's exposure has left them nowhere to run. Eugenie takes Marco to the remote island compound where he was conditioned. After reflecting on his time there, Marco drops a photo of his Army unit and Raymond's Medal of Honor into the sea.




Tina Sinatra was a co-producer of the film. Her father Frank Sinatra portrayed Marco in the original 1962 film and owned that film's legal distribution rights into the late 1980s, never re-releasing it during that time (although it did air on network television several times). In the original, nationally released during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the premise was based on communists taking control; in this remake, big corporate influence serves as the evil faction, a twist to maintain the "Manchurian connection". The remake does not follow the original film's plot details on several occasions.


Box office[edit]

The film grossed $65,955,630 in North America and $30,150,334 in other territories, totaling $96,105,964 worldwide.[2]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "Certified Fresh" 80% rating, based on 207 reviews, with an average rating of 7.11/10. The site's consensus reads, "While not the classic its predecessor is, this update is well-acted and conjures a chilling resonance".[5] Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 76, based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote of Streep, "No one can talk about the acting in The Manchurian Candidate without rhapsodizing about Streep (in the role originated by Angela Lansbury). She has the Hillary hair and the Karen Hughes attack-dog energy, but the charm, the inspiration and the constant invention are her own. She gives us a senator who's a monomaniac, a mad mommy and master politician rolled into one, a woman firing on so many levels that no one can keep up – someone who loves being evil as much as Streep loves acting. She's a pleasure to watch and to marvel at every second she's onscreen."[7]


Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result
2005 Saturn Award Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film The Manchurian Candidate Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Liev Schreiber Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role Nominated
Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actor Jeffrey Wright Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Kimberly Elise Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Meryl Streep Nominated

Home video release[edit]

The film released on VHS and DVD on December 21, 2004.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 29, 2004. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "The Manchurian Candidate (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
  3. ^ Schwartz, Ronald (2005). Neo-noir: The New Film Noir Style from Psycho to Collateral. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-8108-5676-9.
  4. ^ "The Manchurian Candidate". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  5. ^ "The Manchurian Candidate (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
  6. ^ "The Manchurian Candidate reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
  7. ^ LaSalle, Mick (July 30, 2004). "Terrorist attacks, corporate control, election controversy: Sound familiar? 'The Manchurian Candidate' has it all". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 27, 2013.

External links[edit]