The Manchurian Candidate - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Manchurian Candidate Reviews

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March 12, 2017
Excellent film. Deeply moving story.
January 30, 2017
Compelling movie, it pulled me in the moment I began watching
and did not let go.
January 29, 2017
The late Laurence Harvey (Raymond Shaw) and the late Frank Sinatra (Bennett Marco) are both excellent in this compelling and well made suspense thriller. Angela Lansbury is just as excellent as Shaw schemeing mother. Despite the fact that the age difference between Harvey and Lansbury is only three years they were very convincing in the respective roles. I did not care much for the role of Sinatra's love interest played by Janet Leigh. It seemed like a throwaway role. She instantly falls in love with Sinatra's character after he has a breakdown in which he knocks over furniture and breaks drinking glasses. Still despite this otherwise tiny flaw there is a great deal to like about this classic movie. See it once and you will immediately understand why it is so well regarded.
January 14, 2017
While the thrills sometimes feel underwhelming, its message is not remotely subtle.
Super Reviewer
December 5, 2016
The film's concept sounds like outrageous Cold War propaganda but in execution it's a thoroughly surreal and cynical thriller that has very little to do with political or patriotic ideology. Further proof of Frankenheimer's underated brilliance.
½ November 28, 2016
Saw this on 26/11/16
Director Frankenheimer's craft is always resonant in this unusually mature political thriller from the old Hollywood. It's biggest virtue is that it is clearly able to stand apart from the other film of it's period because it chooses to tackle serious issues. There are some stupidities such as the unnecessary romance in the film, especially with Janet Leigh who's character is extremely unnecessary in the film. Other than that it is extremely important film that even had the balls to include violence in it.
November 15, 2016
Arguably the most suspenseful film Sinatra made. Great cast and direction make this an instant classic. On Blu-ray and in The Criterion Collection.
½ November 7, 2016
Classic movie! Great acting, mind-bending plot, and very thought-provoking film. The only thing I didn't like was the ending. It was just a bit predictable, but still good nonetheless.
November 5, 2016
Likeable Cold War era political thriller is as relevant today as it was then.
November 2, 2016
I don't think I have ever watched a film this soon after reading the book it is based on. It highlights for me what a great adaptation this really is. Even where it diverged (Angela Lansbury is not a particularly apt casting given the way her character is described), it generally chooses a more effective way of telling the story on film. (Except for the last 5 minutes of the film.) The film is a groundbreaking combination of thriller and political satire ... it's influence can be felt on every film in this genre over the next two decades.
August 10, 2016
Angela Lansbury steals the show as an icy megalomaniac. Laurence Harvey does a convincing zombie impression, and I'm still not sure whether Janet Leigh is a sympathetic girlfriend or a Manchurian agent.
July 21, 2016
Frank Sinatra's and Angela Lansbury's stellar performances paired with the plot's terrifying twists and turns add up to make one of the greatest Cold War-era films ever.
July 17, 2016
This film has a great unique of political thriller and melodrama genre with an interesting premise and performances.
½ July 11, 2016
7-9-2016. Original rating: 8/10 (5-8-2012)
½ July 3, 2016
Number 1 in my 'Classic Movie' list.
June 25, 2016
The original brainwash film, The Manchurian Candidate is able to blend drama and politics to it's shocking, plot twist story
½ May 1, 2016
Most people remember Frank Sinatra for his singing but he was an excellent actor also. He was in a lot of very good movies and this was one of them. This was a psycho-political drama about an American soldier, played very well by Laurence Harvey, who was brainwashed by Communists to be an assassin. Sinatra plays the Army officer who stops him. I had seen parts of this movie on TV but never saw the whole thing until now. The movie was also very nostalgic for me because it show scenes of New York City back in the 1960s which is where I grew up.
Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
April 28, 2016
Warning, this review contains spoilers, and if you've never seen the film before, you should definitely watch it without knowing anything first, for maximum enjoyment. :)

With that out of the way ... fantastic performances by both Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra, great direction by John Frankenheimer, and an excellent plot all make this a film that is still highly enjoyable today. In a nutshell, American soldiers in the Korean War are captured and subjected to sophisticated brainwashing by Russian and Chinese communists, and one of them is programmed to carry out assassinations back in America. Frank Sinatra plays one of the soldiers who has recurring nightmares about the brainwashing, and the sequence where Frankenheimer shows them thinking they're at a meeting at a lady's club talking about flowers, which seems very odd at first, and spins the camera around to gradually show us the horrifying reality of their predicament, and just how controlled they are, is absolutely fantastic. We come to understand the assassin's trigger, the queen of diamonds when told to play solitaire, which is a wonderfully chilling concept, and I loved how the story included a false trigger at a costume party. Angela Lansbury's character evolves over the film, from over-bearing mother and wife, the brains behind her Senator husband's McCarthyism, to the mastermind behind the whole conspiracy - and how this is revealed is as great as her performance. The movie keeps us guessing, perhaps as those swept up in fear of communism guessed at what may be happening around them in their paranoia, and an example of this is Janet Leigh's offbeat dialog with Sinatra when she first meets him on a train. It immediately seems to us as code and a way of controlling him in some way, but it's also flirtatious, and we're left wondering what her role will be.

Brilliant as it is, from my perspective, the movie has one major flaw. Frankenheimer was happy to show the dangers of McCarthyism and even commented on this in interviews, and yet there WAS a communist plot to overthrow the government, and there WAS unsuspected (and very dangerous) communist infiltration. So at the end of the day, what was the message - that McCarthy was right? I don't think it's right to explain this away as satire of both the right and the left, because I don't see the movie as satire, I see it as a political thriller - but it is a very good one at that.
April 22, 2016
If one can digest the silliness of its brainwashing concept and the trigger mechanism, it can easily turn out to be an excellent viewing experience. I did not quite get it in the first few seconds of the demonstration sequence, not because I could not follow a complex editing or screenplay but I just did not see it coming in a movie of that era. This is one of the most elaborate and beautifully written scripts I have ever come across.

Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and his team were termed heroes and showered with medals and awards when they fight their way back home through a deep enemy territory during the Korean war. Shaw's mother Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury) is a manipulative power broker now married to Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory) with a full intent to put him on the pedestal. Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) a member of Shaw's team and few others starts to have nightmares that contradict their daring escape story all pointing to something skeptical about Shaw. When Marco begins to lose his mind over this, he starts an unofficial inquiry until he finds something solid.

The writing, editing, screenplay and performances were top notch for its time with a lot of emphasis on character development. But the narrative style did put me off sometimes especially Sinatra's piece. The girlfriend/wife character is out of the blue and does not serve any purpose than for him to go on narrating instead of having a conversation. Though it was brilliant for the writing to show the handlers do a lot of mock tests on their brainwash project before a real approach, the whole thing somehow looks messy and too fictional. The movie could've been easily been 20 minutes lesser in its runtime and action sequences were too dated. I can only speculate what a chilling resonance it could have had after JFK's assassination only a year later.

Not without its glitches but a brilliant writing with a complexity that is not seen in its era
March 15, 2016
The mother of all conspiracy thrillers and the last word on Cold War paranoia. Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey, both underrated as actors, excel here. The script, adapted from Richard Condon's novel by George Axelrod, is an ageless fable of power. John Frankenheimer's expert direction and the work of his cinematographer, as well as a great supporting cast, all contribute to a political masterpiece which can be viewed again and again.
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