Jonathan Demme and Denzel Washington team up for the remake of John Frankenheimer’s classic of the same name, The Machurian Candidate. Remakes can be tricky business, especially when there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of reasons to do so. When looking at the subject matter in this instance though, the possibility of corruption within war and politics seems more relevant than ever, and has evolved only in its complexity since the 1960s.
Denzel stars as Bennett Marco, a Gulf Water veteran who looks like a G.I. Joe figure, but behind his clean-cut appearance his mind is playing games with him. From the same former platoon is a war hero (Liev Schrieber) with no knowledge of what he’s done to deserve the hero’s reception, and to exacerbate matters his mother (Meryl Streep) is relentless in her pursuit for political office on his behalf.
What transpires is a tad bizarre, but it’s eerily realistic enough to unnerve you. Experiments and peculiar cover-ups lead Marco on a path of discovery the likes of which he never expected. You want to laugh at it all, at the film itself, and the sheer insanity of these absurd revelations. Upon closer inspection though, these are not all that absurd after all; corporate greed, global agendas in favour over pressing home policies and the vindictive personal gains made at the expense of others are all factors we hear reported about regularly. You find yourself caught in two minds, but leaning more towards the seriously chilling side of it all, owed largely due to the standard and conviction of the cast.
It can quite confidently be said that in the hands of a different cast this film would not be anywhere near as tolerable as it is here. It is easy viewing made hard work by the initial perceived stupidity of it all, but slowly the pieces begin to take their place as it progresses, and what’s left is a solid thriller. For some this might be the perfect Sunday evening film, maybe you’ve ran out of Homeland to watch and need that military fix. Embrace the possibilities and pay attention to the detail; it’s a fine cast, a solid idea, visually clever, but in spite of that the original is much better and far more deserving of your attention.