Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Littered with nerve-jangling psychedelic touches, Jonathan Demme’s 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate turned its own unique psychological screws. As in The Silence of the Lambs, Demme blended a class cast, stunning style and freaky-deaky B-movie vibes into a tantalizingly jittery thriller.
Updated to 2004, war terrain changed from Korea to Kuwait and the military complex replaced Communism as the shadowy threat.
The story everyone knows is that Raymond Prentiss Shaw (Liev Schreiber) — a Congressional Medal of Honor winner in the vice-presidential slot on a promising ticket — saved the day in a Kuwait ambush. But is that what really happened? Maj. Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) — a hallucination-plagued vet — is convinced the truth differs, and he seeks out the truth about Shaw and, in turn, himself.
Demme bursts the comfort bubble with in-your-face, center-framed close-ups, and a soundtrack swirling with constant ambient traffic and siren noises.
Washington endows the role with greater internal fire than Frank Sinatra in the original. And Meryl Streep, as Shaw’s conniving mother, easily rivals Angela Lansbury with a chillingly fierce supporting performance.
Candidate’s biggest flaw is the one of so many Zeroes films — an ending that’s clearly a test-screening tinker job that separates it from classically paranoiac, trippy thrillers such as The Parallax View or Arlington Road.
Otherwise, Candidate created an intensely disquieting election-year freak-out and marked a long-overdue return to form for Demme, who hadn’t made anything nearly as masterful in more than a decade.