The Manchurian Candidate - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Manchurian Candidate Reviews

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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.
½ April 24, 2015
Lot's of strange shit going on in this movie.
April 22, 2015
A classic conspiracy thriller from top to bottom - by the time you figure out was is really going on it's too late - you're sucked in to it's nerve-shredding climax
½ April 15, 2015
What have they built you to do?

Eleanor Shaw Iselin is a controlling mother with strange inspirations of controlling the presidency and views within the nation. Meanwhile, Major Bennett Shaw keeps having strange nightmares where he sees members of his unit assassinated. The Major takes a leave of absence when he discovers other officers are having the same nightmares and Robert Shaw from his Korean War unit seems to be uniquely impacted. He follows Shaw and falls into Eleanor's strange political plans.

"It was just a test. It didn't matter who I killed."

John Frankenheimer, director of Birdman of Alcatraz, Prophecy (1979), Ronin, Reindeer Games, the Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), and The Burning Season, delivers Manchurian Candidate. The storyline for this picture is very well written and executed by the cast. The cast is remarkable and includes Frank Sinatra (regarded as his greatest performance), Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, John McGiver, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish, and Henry Silva.

"The man has not killed in two years."

Manchurian Candidate is a movie I have been meaning to see for some time and was glad to discover on Netflix. This movie was so well done and the cast all perform off each other well. Sinatra is very intense and compelling and Lansbury is remarkably manipulative. The movies come together well and is a must see.

"Your attention span is limited."

Grade: A-
March 28, 2015
Unimaginably scary when it was released and still powerful today
January 19, 2015
A great thriller and another brilliant on-screen performance by Sinatra (even if he does go a little heavy on the 'Daddy-O's'. Lansbury looks the same age as she did when doing 'Murder She Wrote' weirdly but other than that this is a taut and interesting premise with brainwashed soldiers coming back from the Korean war to misguidedly aid the Commies.
January 6, 2015
One of the top ten best films of all time.
December 4, 2014
Amazing twists and turns. Powerfully directed, acted, and staged, this political suspense/action thriller artfully builds intensity and is wildly intelligent and a sheer pleasure. Chilling, creeping and terrifying - a whole new level of fear bc of an overbearing mother.
And did that really happen or is that a dream??
Stunning overall.

Nothing beats the 1963 original.

Don't even bother to watch the Denzel remake - it plays like a terrible tv movie remake, and just ruins what is done so articulately here. Obvious, suspenseless, boring, uninteresting, the director Demme comes across so amateurish, and ruins it by not simply telling the story details a small bit at a time.
½ October 19, 2014
For an old film its alright but not really by modern standards. The plot is just daft and most of the acting is overblown. Only Angela Lansbury really delivers.
October 9, 2014
A very important film.
½ September 26, 2014
25% of the time, it is one of the most emotionally effective political thrillers I've ever seen. 75% of the time, it is THE undeniably most haunting, chilling, terrifying political thriller I've ever seen. Really the only reason this doesn't have a 5-star is the missed opportunity at an incredible late-movie twist given away near the beginning. You can tell a lot of movies going forward owe a lot to The Manchurian Candidate.
½ September 23, 2014
Easy to see why it's a classic. I'm glad I went into it not knowing much about the plot, as it truly does have great suspense, and a fantastic cast.
August 11, 2014
Effortlessly timeless and forever a classic.
July 31, 2014
This movie takes an absurd premise and elevates it to a classic satire/thriller.
July 19, 2014
I'd say that my experience watching this film may be reflected on the tagline seen on the original poster.

"If you come in five minutes after this picture begins, you won't know what it's all about!" - that's very true - "When you've seen it all, you'll swear there's never been anything like it!" That tagline is surprisingly true. At first, it was hard knowing what was going on. So I went back to the first five minutes, and it got only a little clearer. But until I got to the second half, I'd started to understand the meaning of its way completely (almost actually). So it's true on what the second part of the tagline meant: I'd never seen anything like it.

Staff Sergeant Richard Shaw (Laurence Harvey) returns from the Korean War to the U.S. lines, and was given a Medal of Honor by his commander Mayor Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra). But he's not actually free from his freedom, there's still his nasty, sinister, controlling mother Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) and his McCarthy-like stepfather Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory), and he's not completely himself like when he left to go to war. Shaw was brainwashed when his U.S. platoon was captured and taken to Manchuria in Communist China. Whenever he hears the words to play solitaire, he goes into a blank and do an order after seeing the Queen of Diamonds card. He do an order of killing with no memory of his horrific action.

Marco kept having a recurring nightmare of Shaw killing his two "missing" comrades. So he went to investigate, and save his "kid" (a nickname he gave to Shaw) from doing any more killings, if his nightmare turns out to be right. A technique he'd figured before the climax is the smartest handling for that kind of situation.

It's like what Alfred Hitchcock would do when directing a political thriller. There are some tactics and tiny homages to his ways of creating suspense. The suspense begin to stir when Shaw was offered solitaire and will eventually do an order.

So it's a nice satire in a small way when making fun of the way how that time was like between a part of the government and the communists. It's also

It's definitely something I've never seen before. With a deck of cards initiating the brainwash and the suspense, and Lansbury's nasty character when I've only seen her as sweet characters (i.e. "Beauty and the Beast" and "Anastasia"). A nice film on the Cold War with some melodrama power in the last two orders that Shaw was brainwashed to take. (Probably need a better way to end this review, but it'll do like that for now.) (B+)
July 2, 2014
A classic political thriller not to be forgotten.
June 9, 2014
A slow paced political thriller. The conspiracy is a little complex, but still easy enough to follow. The acting is superb. Worth the watch.
May 30, 2014
Awesome film. Old school filmmaking for sure. No room tone, minimal music.

All and all it was a great story and would recommend.
May 1, 2014
Based upon the 1959 novel by Richard Condon and directed by John Frankenheimer, (Seven Days in May (1964), The Train (1964) and Ronin (1998)), this is a suspenseful thriller which came out when the Cold War was at it's peak, and it opened when the Cuban Missile Crisis was at it's peak, capturing the mood of the times. It set the template for most paranoid thrillers that would follow suit. It begins in 1952, when a U.S. Platoon are kidnapped during the Korean War, and sent to Manchuria in Communist China, where they're brainwashed. Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) saves their lives, when the platoon are sent home, their captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) begins having recurring nightmares of the torture he underwent. Army intelligence begins to investigate, meanwhile Sergeant Shaw's mother Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury) has a secret agenda all of her own, and it involves brainwashing of her own son. While it may look a little dated now, especially as Communism isn't a threat anymore compared to what's out there now, it makes for a good, suspenseful thriller, and along with The Man With The Golden Arm (1955), it showcased Sinatra's range as a serious actor, he should have done more films like this.
April 22, 2014
Under the immense recommendation from my stepfather to watch The Manchurian Candidate since he was a massive fan of Frank Sinatra, I couldn't pass it up.

The Manchurian Candidate is clearly a dated film which has its impact being more notorious upon its original release in 1962 due to its prescient nature at the time which made it a cultural landmark. By today, it's impact has become lesser yet still remains a classic political thriller.
The Manchurian Candidate touches upon a lot of sensitive themes for its 1962 setting which makes it rather prescient considering the nature of what came next for America in the world that it faced. And while it's pacing is rather slow for a while, The Manchurian Candidate takes such a complex look into politics and it is handled really well by director John Frankenheimer. He not only gives the film a strong visual style, but he ensures that the themes in the story are played to full effect as the thrills gradually begin to unravel themselves on a path to the grand finale.
The ending scene is one of the most brutally thrilling scenes in political thriller history, and it serves as an outlet for the extensive intense buildup that The Manchurian Candidate has spent the majority of its 126 minute running time leading up to. It's a brutal grand finale which gives The Manchurian Candidate the shock that it has become legendary for its brutal intensity and impact on the viewer.
Really, The Manchurian Candidate can be looked at today for what it covered in its own age and for touching on the sensitive themes of the Cold War, brainwashing and political manipulation. And it does it through George Axelrod's screenplay adaptation of the eponymous 1959 novel by Richard Condon. Although several plot elements are removed due to the censorship of film elements during the 1962, it still maintains much of the original political drama which makes it a standout thriller.
While viewers today may consider it long, slow and familiar, The Manchurian Canditate is still a thrilling and educational film which evokes memories to a complicated time period by emphasising many of the extreme elements from the period.
And as a medium for expressing a lot of the underlaying themes in a more understandable and compelling manner, the themes are written into characters which are acted out terrifically by the immensely talented cast.
Frank Sinatra's lead performance is strengthened by his natural talent for dramatic line delivery and intense facial gestures in The Manchurian Candidate. His performance is key to the thrilling atmosphere since he is always in an unsettling emotional state of mind, and it reflects the damaging experiences he has faced and his return to a world he doesn't understand. Frank Sinatra nails the lead role head on in The Manchurian Candidate, and he carries it all to the end.
Laurence Harvey gives an intense performance in The Manchurian Candidate which can obviously be deemed as one of the best of his career. It's never easy to tell what he's going to do next because his ability as an actor to be able to instantly flip his characterisation from a man in a stable state of mind to a thoughtless messenger boy happens as quickly as the flick of a lightswitch. The strength he puts into his role makes his character compelling, and it's a performance I deem worthy of an Academy Award nomination.
And it is no surprise whatsoever that Angela Lansbury scored a nomination, because she is the perfect person to portray Mrs. Iselin, the real master of the double life. Of all the twisted and complicated characters in the film, it is Mrs. Iselin who is the most packed with surprises. It's so unexpected, and thanks to the power in Angela Lansbury's performance, the incredible twists and turns are all believable. Angela Lansbury gives one of the finest performances of her career in The Manchurian Candidate, and her chemistry with her surrounding actors is strong.
Janet Leigh is also a strong and beautiful presence, as her smile brightens up the life of the film and her chemistry with Laurence Harvey has a lot of love and life in it which makes both characters all the more compelling in spirit.

So The Manchurian Candidate is a classic example of a political thriller, and the effect of its climax and the meaningful efforts of its actors overshadow its pacing and length.
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