The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Screen Test and more

I find it truly frightening how uninspired Hollywood has become in recent years. Remake after remake is rolling in and in most cases, the remakes never even get close to the original films they try to revisit. Sadly, Jonathan Demme’s remake of ’The Manchurian Candidate’ is one such lost cause where I can’t help but ask myself ’Who needs this?’

The original ’Manchurian Candidate’ was a marvelous and subtle film in which the storyline was both dramatic and suspenseful, full of unexpected revelations and a kick of an ending. For the remake the filmmakers tried to make it more contemporary and threw overboard everything that made the original so special. As a result, the remake is a lifeless story that humbles along without any significance or emotional investment. While in the original the story had the scope of a global threat to virtually everyone in the free world, the remake reduced this marvelous outset to a little power play of a single devious person trying to take political power. Considering that we’ve seen even greater political manipulation and slighting of the populace in recent years, the premise of the remake almost makes you want to yawn.

Paramount Home Entertainment has created a pristine presentation of the movie for this DVD in anamorphic widescreen, which is not surprising as this is a brand new film. The image is absolutely free of blemishes or defects and renders a crisp, sharp image with very good detail throughout. Edges are well-delineated without showing signs of artificial edge-enhancement and the colors of the transfer are natural-looking and faithful to the original intent. Hues and gradients are vivid and vibrant and skin tones are rendered naturally at all times. Black levels are solid, giving the image good shadow definition and good visual depth. The compression is without flaws also, making for a great-looking presentation.

In terms of audio the DVD comes with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track that is engaging and well mixed, making good use of the surround channels at all times. Frequency response is good with a solid bass extension and clear high ends.

As extras the DVD contains a commentary track by director Jonathan Demme and co-writer Daniel Pyne. They elaborate on the film on their take of the subject and how they treated the material to contemporize it. Well, all I can say is that I could not disagree more with them as I feel their attempts are utterly unsatisfactory and superfluous.

A series of deleted scenes is also included on the release with optional commentary, as is a promotional featurette on the making of the movie. You will also find outtakes on the DVD as well as Live Schreiber’s screen test. All decent enough material, I suppose, with no real highlights.

In a sense this film represents the stultification of today’s society. It is a movie for people how are too lazy to think and to look beyond their own plate. Not even the great cast can save this movie from being a sore disappointment, turning a classic, elaborate masterpiece into a dumbed-down fast food montage of no significance or depth.