The Manchurian Candidate - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Manchurian Candidate Reviews

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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
June 23, 2016
While the thrills sometimes feel underwhelming, its message is not remotely subtle.
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.
February 18, 2016
The Manchurian Candidate is a simply fascinating film about a group of soldiers who are brainwashed in an effort to create a mindless killer who won't even be aware he kills. The execution of this film is simply amazing. Each shot is framed perfectly, and there is something about the way they do the lighting that is so vibrant, somehow my memories keep telling me the film was in color even though it was all black-and-white. I love how they present the dream sequences which bounce back-and-forth between what really happened and what they want the soldiers to see. There's so much to love in the story and the way it is presented in The Manchurian Candidate, so I can understand why it has been highly regarded and won awards. I think where the movie falls short is that it reveals things a bit too early. Making us wait to find out if the dreams are real would be more effective, and would build more tension. Also the reveal of Raymond's handler was much earlier than it should have been, because they could have completely shocked the audience in the final act with that twist. Because we know things so early there are moments where I felt the movie was dragging just a little, and needed to accelerate to the climax. My only other minor complaint is Frank Sinatra. While I love his music, and even enjoy him in some acting roles, I think this particular role would have been more impressive with an actor who has a better handle on subtlety. But the rest of the cast is amazing, especially Angela Lansbury who steals all her scenes. I must reiterate, the story and execution of The Manchurian Candidate are so brilliant that any little shortcomings I reference are not going to outweigh its quality. If you haven't seen this movie then you probably should.
½ January 25, 2016
Talk about a film that's ahead of its time. A year before the Kennedy Assassination and a decade before Watergate made tense conspiracy thrillers a staple of American cinema, we get this unlikely Frank Sinatra vehicle. Dismiss all thoughts of the Rat Pack version of Sinatra. Here he's serious, edgy and excellent. And I say that as someone who's not usually a big fan. The other standout performance here is Angela Langsbury, wonderfully cast against type as a monstrous right-wing politician and smothering mother to Laurence Harvey. Harvey is fine here, but his uneven accent (he's from Lithuania via England) can take you out of the film slightly. Janet Leigh is also fine and has some funny lines, but is given very little to do as the obligatory love interest. Those niggles aside, this is a great picture. Tense, rarely too slow, and with some innovative use of dream sequences, which are easy to get wrong. Certainly ahead of its time, as well as the conspiracy plot, there is also a useful reminder to be distrustful of those who wrap themselves in the flag and accuse their political opponents of not loving their country. This film has been copied over and over again. But do yourself a favour and check out the original.
November 23, 2015
As good as a film can be. Chilling and dark with Sinatra's finest acting.
November 14, 2015
For those who think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in 2011 is a masterpiece of spy movie, they should watch this true masterpiece made almost 50 years ago. Chaos and puzzlements are all right, and it is the director's talents to sort the things out for the characters, the audience, and make the audience empathetic about it through the suspense created. John Frankenheimer has achieved all these, while Tomas Alfredson failed. Despite featuring the highly dualistic cold-war ideologies which are no longer seen today, the weird opening sequence, the hideous scene in dreams, the brainwashed yet still charismatic Laurence Harvey and the gruesome Mrs. Iselin portrayed by Angela Lansbury are what it takes to be a classic spy movie. The gradual revelation with suspense fading away bit by bit maintains the thrills and shocks you till the end. Only films of these levels can be named classics, but not superficial scrape of traces and characters.
½ September 12, 2015
This film still mostly holds up today as a 1962 visionary type political thriller.
It's quite something.
Super Reviewer
August 9, 2015
It's a product of its time and it hasn't aged well. Very un-engrossing too.
August 6, 2015
This cold war psychological drama contains many mysterious elements, and the final 30 minutes is thrilling as the pieces fall into place. 1001
May 29, 2015
one of my top 22 films
½ April 24, 2015
It has minor flaws, most of which can be largely attributed to the time it was filmed in, but it's still a striking, tragic, intelligently designed thriller.
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