Friday, August 22, 2008

the manchurian candidate



so the other night, after the kids were in bed and shannon was watching project runway, i decided to watch a movie. i've got several dvd's sitting around that are just waiting for me to watch them, so i somewhat randomly chose "the manchurian candidate," put it in the dvd player, not knowing what to expect, and sat down to a couple suspenseful and interesting hours.

this movie is a remake of a 1962 film (which i have never seen), and as such carries some baggage for many viewers. however, given that i not only have never seen the original but am also am completely unfamiliar with the story or plot of the film, this was all new to me.

and i really enjoyed it. for one thing, you probably need to understand that i totally have a man crush on denzel washington, and so i find myself loving any film that he is in (can you say "glory" or "the pelican brief" or "remember the titans?"). so maybe i was just blinded by my own denzel-love, but i really enjoyed this film. while it has a pretty far-fetched and almost completely unbelievable sci-fi element to it, the politics of the movie are compelling and relevant. a movie that believably tells a story about big-government in bed with big-business in a torrid relationship that plays itself out in politics, money, war and even souls is, unfortunately, increasingly close to home. in other words the far-fetched science doesn't matter (maybe in part because we have learned that science can do a lot more than many of us even know about), because the politics seem so plausible. we can believe that big business has basically bought a candidate. we can believe that politicians can be at once idealists and self-serving power and money hungry near-despots. we have seen a long line of broken politicians and crooked leaders, and in a day when fear about our leaders has escalated, we believe that it can get worse.

this film plays on those fears, a bit, in a masterful and convincing way. the tagline for the film is "everything is under control," and this always seems tobe the mantra of big government. everythign is under control. even while it seems like everything is spinning wildly out of control, the buttoned up pinstriped leaders clench their jaws and smile reassuringly. everything is under control.

in the end, the film seems to have little hope in government or business. but it does put some hope in the strength of the human spirit to find its way through all the brokenness and crookedness. it seems to say that, maybe, even in the midst of corruption, we have a choice, we have an ability to be different, to tell the truth, to stop the machine. we have the ability to be truly human and not just players, not just casualties.

i hope that's true.

5 comments:

John said...

I've only seen the original, but it was fantastic.

pete s said...

original is better. trust me.

cathyq said...

I've never seen the movie, but I am a huge Denzel fan too. Love him in "Much Ado About Nothing"! Those leather pants...

greg. said...

pete, many reviewers say that this may well be the best remake ever made. i haven't seen the original, but many of the reviews i read say that this film rivaled the original by staying true to its spirit while having something new to say in a new age. i'll have to see the original someday to draw my own conclusions...

pete s said...

i won't argue with it being the best remake ever--it's definitely that. but the original was just that: original. i felt this way when i saw the spanish film Vanilla Sky was based on ('apres los ojos')--Vanilla Sky is technically superior by far, and is produced beautifully, but apres los ojos is...well, original.

in addition, when watching the original you have to deal with the fact that you're watching something that's nearly 50 years old, so the dialogue and mannerisms seem a little awkward to our 21st century sensibilities. And then, of course, there's the fact that Angela Lansbury is trying to play the mother of someone she's only five years older than...