Denzel Washington stars in this remake of The Manchurian Candidate which sees a group of soldiers come home after the war only to find that they all start having the same nightmare which makes them suspect that some kind of brainwashing happened along the way.
After a bizarre encounter with Jeffrey Wright's soldier, who has pretty much lost it completely, Washington decides to try and make contact with Liev Schreiber's co-veteran, who has since moved on to working in politics. Under the supervision of his controlling mother, played by Meryl Streep, Shreiber is leading a campaign to become the new Vice President. But he slowly starts to remember the nightmares Washington mentions which paint him not as a war hero but as something else entirely. What follows is a thriller not so much focused on action as it is focused on the core mystery. The film is directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence Of The Lambs) and he handles the growing paranoia well despite the post-Gulf War setting not quite making as much sense as the original post-Korean War setting which saw Communists brainwash the soldiers.
The brainwashing, by the way, is not a spoiler since we learn this surprisingly early on. What seemed like it was going to serve as the film's main twist ending turns out to be just another plot point and the twist we are given right at the end isn't exactly mind blowing so one wishes the script had said very little in terms of what actually happened to these soldiers until much later in order to make us wonder a bit longer because, as it stands, you still want to know exactly what happened but it's all pretty predictable. The idea at the heart of the film, where a company attempts to privatise the government, is an interesting one and should have been fleshed out a little more and been a tad more impactful. The film plays like a whodunit but it's so obvious who the people involved in those shady goings-on are that any real punch the film wanted to pack is basically lost in a sea of expositional dialog.
The Manchurian Candidate did have a lot of potential and, although this remake is, indeed, inferior to the original and is rather flawed as a whole, it's still a fair enough thriller with some good moments. Besides, Washington and Streep always make anything watchable so, while by no means essential viewing, fans of 24 or the like should find themselves at least entertained.
Ok but ultimately forgettable.