The Manchurian Candidate


Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 41
  2. Negative: 0 out of 41

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    A hugely entertaining thriller shot through with dark shards of agony and paranoia. It takes nothing away from the original while delivering pleasures all its own.
  2. 100
    The strength of sensational material joined to excellent acting, superior filmmaking and uncanny political relevance has made The Manchurian Candidate into exceptionally intelligent entertainment and a high point of director Jonathan Demme's career.
  3. 100
    Neither the social commentary nor the story ever overpower the other, a feat that allows this remake to stand proudly alongside the original, its equal in every way.
  4. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Demme here shows off both the mastery of suspense that made "The Silence of the Lambs" a classic, and the humane understanding and appreciation of character that not just deepens but energizes this film.
  5. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Structurally and thematically similar to John Frankenheimer's original but entirely different in style, feel and nuance, this political thriller about a brainwashed soldier being positioned for the White House provides a delectable network of dramatic tripwires that teases the mind and quickens the pulse. This is brainy popcorn fare.
  6. 90
    Shockingly, he's (Jonathan Demme) pulled it off, replicating the original's tricky feat of investing a paranoid plot with timeliness, psychological complexity, sociopolitical acumen, and almost frightening conviction.
  7. A political thriller that manages to be at once silly and clever, buoyantly satirical and sneakily disturbing, but he (Demme) has recovered some of the lightness and sureness of touch that had faded from his movies after "The Silence of the Lambs."
  8. A stylish hoot: entertainingly edgy and ludicrous all at once.
  9. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Shrewdly reconceived, powerfully acted and hugely entertaining.
  10. We've come to expect each new Demme film to percolate to an urgently musical beat. (The Manchurian Candidate also features a few cameos by musicians as diverse as Robyn Hitchcock and Fab Five Freddy.)
  11. The performance of the movie is Liev Schreiber as Shaw, a man howlingly uncomfortable in his own skin.
  12. The updated classic is a chiller of a political thriller in its own right.
  13. 80
    If Demme's version lacks the wallop of its predecessor, it is more likely to be popular with contemporary audiences, who will enjoy not only its labyrinthine twists but its stars' burnished professionalism.
  14. 80
    What is surprising is how fresh Demme’s version is and how close it approaches the original in terms of quality.
  15. 80
    Demme, who works a clever permutation on the original ending, is more than capable of doing the thriller thing--even with material that will strike a good percentage of his audience as familiar. As an intelligent genre flick, the movie plays to his strengths. His direction of actors has never been better.
  16. His performance here made me suspect that Schreiber is, in a sense, another Kenneth Branagh--an extraordinary actor who is simply not a film star.
  17. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    A cracking conspiracy thriller that's well-cast, slyly satirical and -- as a solid, glossy, contemporised remix of a classic -- rings enough creepy changes to surprise.
  18. Demme's movie is just as sophisticated and knowing as Frankenheimer's, but it isn't as hip or daring. It doesn't haunt your mind or stir your sense of dread the way the '62 movie did--and it lacks almost totally the earlier film's piercing, oddball satire and humor.
  19. If you ride the paranoiac tide, letting Jonathan Demme's assured direction carry you along, the sardonic humor and anxiety-inducing message work on you.
  20. 75
    Filled with conspiracies, intrigue and the suggestion that modern-day society is purposely designed to drive us a little nuts, The Manchurian Candidate is a paranoid fantasy for our time.
  21. Sure, there are holes in The Manchurian Candidate, and tenuous coincidences and too-convenient plot devices. But Washington, Schreiber, Streep and company - and Demme - have managed to make all the malevolent machinations seem relevant again.
  22. 75
    This riveting film is marred by compromises -- such as a switch of assassins to create an unpersuasive upbeat ending -- that keep it in the shadow of its predecessor.
  23. Denzel Washington is stellar, and so is Tak Fujimoto's cinematography, which is as edgy and antsy as the story it tells.
  24. Washington is wisely cast as Marco; few actors command more instant respect, and the movie uses that to make his character both believable and sympathetic.
  25. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    The first "Candidate" was inspired pop art, a two-dimensional coloring book about 1962 America's subterranean political fears. Demme's film is more nuanced, less crazy-brilliant and, yes, probably less necessary, but it's still a confirmation of all the anxieties out there on the table and festering in our heads.
  26. 75
    Streep wisely goes for oblique humor rather than straight-ahead villainy, making the character different and yet just as loathsome.
  27. Part patrician WASP, part Lady Macbeth and revealing more than a little of Hilary Clinton steel, Streep crackles with neurotic energy and barely checked sexuality, sublimated into an addiction to power and an unhealthy devotion to her son.
  28. [Streep] isa pleasure to watch -- and to marvel at -- every second she's onscreen.
  29. Just as you feel the numbing, clammy clench of paranoia on your neck, you realize, nope, the grip is just the director's attempt at tickling you to death. Demme's movie had no right to work. It does, and then some.
  30. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Beautifully made and unsurpassingly creepy, it's the rare remake with something contemporary to add.
  31. In a story driven by questions of loyalty and allegiance, no candidate is identified by party. It's a bipartisan nightmare from which no one escapes unscathed.
  32. What this Manchurian Candidate for a new generation makes up for in timing, it lacks in discipline and edge.
  33. Very surprisingly, Meryl Streep is not wonderful as Schreiber's scheming, incestuously possessive mother. She gobbles up all the scenery but, for whatever reason, she's just not half as chilling a portrait of demented mother love as the original's Angela Lansbury.
  34. 63
    The result, regardless of how it was arrived at, is gutless.
  35. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    A case of smart and talented people trying to jam a Cold War square into a Gulf War circle. You can feel the chafing, to say nothing of the burden this capably crafted shrug has taken on.
  36. 63
    Uniformly excellent performances keep this destabilizing tale ticking, yet one can't help wishing Hollywood had combined this cast and these timely themes with a little bit of imagination to come up with something fresh.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 133 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 59
  2. Negative: 19 out of 59
  1. Jul 21, 2014
    The remake of The Manchurian Candidate is one of the few Denzel Washington films I've never seen. To be honest, the story just didn't interestThe remake of The Manchurian Candidate is one of the few Denzel Washington films I've never seen. To be honest, the story just didn't interest me that much, but it started streaming this month, so I gave it a shot. As expected, it's a someone complex story, that at times was difficult to understand, however an all-star cast manages to pull it together at the end. The story begins in Iraq during the Gulf War, when a U.S. Army platoon goes missing for three days. Even they were unaware of what happened to them, until one of the men starts having nightmares, and bodies start turning up. Denzel Washington plays the commanding officer, who takes it upon himself to investigate the strange deaths of his men, almost a decade later. As always, Washington is at the top of his game, giving off that infectious intensity, that keeps you on the edge of your seat through every step of the investigation. Washington is paired with Liev Schreiber who is one guy that has always just rubbed me the wrong way. It's not that he's a bad actor, there is just something about him and the characters he plays that is inherently unlikeable. He wasn't bad in this film, but being a similarly intense actor, meant that the chemistry with Washington was almost non-existent. The story is complicated and in the beginning of the film, it's going to be somewhat hard to watch. As the film proceeds and the elements become more clear, the film gets easier to watch, and the ending really pulls everything together. The Manchurian Candidate is one of those films that you think is going to be a bust, some people may even turn it off, but those who stick with it will see that it just gets better and better until a surprise ending brings it all together. If I were the writer of this film, I would have made the beginning of the film more intense and less confusing. The truth is the most important parts of a film are the beginning and the end, and without a strong opening, a lot of people will be turned off to the film and have the wrong attitude throughout. If you manage to stick with it, The Manchurian Candidate is great, but it does take a while to get there. Full Review »
  2. Mar 23, 2016
    The Manchurian Candidate is a weak 'remake' of the classic early 60's Cold War paranoia masterpiece.

    It in itself isn't a bad film, but it
    The Manchurian Candidate is a weak 'remake' of the classic early 60's Cold War paranoia masterpiece.

    It in itself isn't a bad film, but it removes so many of the layers of the original it feels more like a TV movie, than a relatively big budget Hollywood produced film.

    Like the original the narrative is borne out of a conspiracy to place a sleeper agent in the White House, except this time it's not the Communist Chinese government at work, but a large multi-national company seeking to have someone in power who can increase their influence and profit potential.

    So, the stakes are massively reduced for a start, and that hurts the movie greatly. We sit and watch events unfold, but the reality is that even if the 'bad guys' succeed, it's not going to be pushing the Government towards a pro-Communist stance etc.!

    The acting in the film is good enough, the main leads are doing their best with a weak script. The action scenes are more interesting, as this movie goes more into detail about the 'brainwashing' than the original, and is quite harrowing. The score is by the numbers stuff, which is about all you can say about the direction too.... It's adequately done, but you can't sit there watching and wonder how much better it could have been, because there's nothing in the film that stands out.

    Bad points just revolve around the lazy narrative. Updating such a classic to a 'modern' setting wasn't going to be easy, and this film proves that to be the case. However, it's not a lamentable attempt, it's just lazy.

    It's a film to watch, if you've never seen it. Not a film to actively avoid. However, if you've never seen the original..... Then watch that, instead of this!
    Full Review »
  3. Nov 28, 2012
    Jonathan Demme's reimagining of the classic political thriller proves to be a harrowing, powerfully acted, and solidly written piece of cinema.