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The Manchurian Candidate is a 2004 Americanmarker film based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Richard Condon, and a reimagining of the previous 1962 film.

The film stars Denzel Washington as Bennett Marco, a tenacious, virtuous soldier, Liev Schreiber as Raymond Shaw, a U.S. Representative from New Yorkmarker, manipulated into becoming a vice-presidential candidate, Jon Voight as Tom Jordan, a U.S. Senator and challenger for vice president and Meryl Streep as Eleanor Shaw, also a senator and the manipulative, ruthless mother of Raymond Shaw.


Maj. Bennett "Ben" Marco (Denzel Washington) is a war veteran who begins to doubt what is commonly known about his famous army unit. During Operation Desert Storm, Sergeant First Class Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) supposedly rescued all but two members in his unit, of which Marco was the commanding officer. While this made Shaw a war hero, gained him the Medal of Honor, and launched him into a career in politics, Marco and other members of the troop feel that while they remember that Shaw did rescue them, they do not actually remember his doing it.

The members begin to come together in the dystopic near-future of 2008 after Shaw, now a United States Congressman, becomes his party's candidate for Vice-President. He is an unexpected candidate, as Connecticut Senator Tom Jordan (Jon Voight) was the leading choice for some time. Jordan is pushed aside by Shaw's mother, Virginia Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), who blackmails the party leaders into nominating her son. An obvious rivalry exists between Eleanor Shaw and Tom Jordan, partly due to a past relationship between Raymond Shaw and Jordan's daughter Jocelyne (Vera Farmiga).

After Shaw is nominated, Marco begins investigating what really happened during the war. Allied with an FBI agent named Rosie (Kimberly Elise) he links the mystery of his lost platoon to Manchurian Global, an international weapons manufacturer with major political connections, including the Shaw family. Soon Marco discovers Manchurian Global's brainwashing of his "lost" platoon, and their plans to take over the White House with Shaw, under the power of the company and Eleanor Shaw, who is even more power hungry than she appears.

Soon Eleanor Shaw begins to take matters into her own hands, trusting Manchurian Global less and less. Her ruthlessness is shown when she uses her own brainwashed son to assassinate Senator Jordan, who had been contacted by Marco and had begun to support his investigation in an attempt to expose her plan. As she becomes more and more controlling, it is soon revealed that the Vice-Presidential spot is not what she has in mind for her son, but the presidency. On election night, the newly elected president will be assassinated, and the planned assassin of Shaw's running mate is none other than Marco himself, who was also brainwashed in the war. With the help of the FBI, Marco arranges a private meeting with Shaw in a school which he was to cast his vote in. Marco tries once again to convince Shaw of what is happening to him. Shaw seems to agree, and gives Marco his Medal of Honor, which he says he does not deserve. Marco takes it, and Shaw receives a phone call from his mother, who wants to talk to Marco. Marco answers it, and is soon "activated" by her.

After Eleanor Shaw activates her son, he becomes helpless and weak. Shaw washes down her son, kissing him repeatedly on the lips and stroking the back of his neck. They then get ready to go to the election party.

Shaw and Marco begin to regain a conscious state even while under Manchurian Global's control. At the election night celebration party, the newly elected Shaw and Major Marco realize what must be done. Shaw leads his mother onto the stage with him, moving them into the spot where the President should be and blocking Marco's shot. Marco then fires one shot, killing both of them as they hug. Just before Marco can kill himself (which had been part of Eleanor Shaw's plan), Rosie stops him by shooting him in the shoulder. The FBI seemingly covers up Marco's involvement, pinning a Manchurian Global conspirator with the shooting. In the last scene, Rosie takes Marco to the compound he was brainwashed in, apparently in conjunction with the FBI investigating. Marco realizes what has happened, and lets the sea take away a picture of the "lost platoon" along with Shaw's Medal of Honor as if erasing what happened in that compound.


Because the film takes place during a presidential campaign, Al Franken makes a cameo appearance as himself, while Sidney Lumet, Anna Deavere Smith, Roy Blount, Jr. and Fab 5 Freddy make short appearances as political pundits. Roger Corman also cameos as the Secretary of State. Beau Sia can be seen briefly on a TV-screen, as the presenter of a late-night comedy show while Gayle King can be seen on TV-screens several times as the presenter of a political chat show.



Critic Mick LaSalle wrote about Mrs. Streep that "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."

Awards and nominations

2005 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Awards) 2005 BAFTA Film Awards
  • Nominated - Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Meryl Streep
2005 Black Reel Awards 2005 Golden Globe Awards


  1. LaSalle, Mick, July 30, 2004. San Francisco Chronicle, Movie Review of The Manchurian Candidate

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