Manchurian Candidate: Denzel Washington Movie brings us to a World of Fear, Chaos and Madness.

Gen X moview review The Manchurian CandidateSomeday our bureaucrats will wear team uniforms like professional racecar drivers indicating who sponsors them. Looking into the eyes of a George Bush we will see the intricate workings of giant energy corporations and our John Kerrys will distribute Time Warner and Citigroup leaflets at campaign rallies.

The new film starring Denzel Washington, the Manchurian Candidate pulls away the curtain from the Wizard of Oz, revealing the weird and frightening mechanisms used to compel our compliance with a world order.

Total discloser is a frightening concept. We know our government is controlled by shadowy figures in the private sector – corporate illuminati – but specific knowledge of this conspiracy would drive many of us mad.

U.S. Army Major Bennett Marco (Washington) is obviously nuts. Why else would he stalk his old army buddy Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) claiming that his Desert Storm heroics are a fabrication? What sane person believes the government is controlled by brainwashing ghouls intent on world domination?

Yep, this guy isn’t right in the head. Lock him up before anyone listens to his conspiracies. We don’t want to alert, er, I mean unnecessarily panic the masses.

If the conspiracy can control our minds, it can shape how we act in the future. If it can manufacture memories and fabricate events, it can change the very way we see and feel. For Marco these are not merely philosophical or intellectual issues, but problems that affect him at a personal level.

A career soldier, Marco is accustomed to being used as a weapon, an instrument the establishment uses to punish and coerce other people. When dreams about his time in Desert Storm interrupt his daily life, however, shaking his belief in his own memories, he doesn’t know who has pulled his strings or for what reason.

The ‘official story’ that Shaw repelled an enemy onslaught, then led his fellow soldiers through the desert Moses-like seems incongruent with Marco’s recollections. Although Marco knows the story by heart, it seems unreal somehow, as though it is a counterfeit memory beneath a lie.

The truth, whatever it is, haunts him at night, returning to him as a nightmarish counter-narrative. Following murky threads of fragmentary memories, Marco confronts a secret that not only calls his own agency into question, but also suggests that the political machine has been usurped.

Marco’s suspicions rise when Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (Meryl Streep) engineers her son on the democratic presidential ticket as a vice-presidential candidate. Shaw senior has been heavily bankrolled by Manchurian Global, a huge multi-national corporation – who has also invested in mind-controlling implants – and Marco thinks that the entire platoon has been brainwashed, injected with false memories.

Why? To manufacturer an ideal candidate: a fabrication that can be elected to the highest positions of government, a puppet and mouthpiece for Manchurian Global.

Eleanor Prentiss Shaw sees in her boy the perfect political vehicle. Raymond Shaw is a henpecked son, a man only in the most superficial ways, and his mother uses him as a sort of “sock puppet,” not only politically, but also personally. The film’s weird sexual tension between mother and son thankfully never completely materializes, adding another secret to the nest of enigmas that is the film.

Eleanor Prentiss Shaw is a political force to be reckoned with, but she is barred from certain opportunities simply because she is biologically a female. By using her son’s “maleness,” manipulating him from the inside out, she is able to breach the masculine sphere. She controls men as machines, and even her own son is merely raw material burned to fuel her personal desire.

The film takes place in a world of fear, chaos and madness. The press and the powers that be manufacture terror as a means of controlling the people. The media spin on events crackles in the background of nearly every scene as characters off screen listen to television or radio. Conspiracy not only seems a rational explanation for this fear, but also its only solution, as though anarchy, too, has been created by the establishment to encourage their complete control.

The Manchurian Candidate is an uncanny sort of thriller. Just remind yourself that it’s only a movie as our corporate-sponsored candidates pay lip service to freedom and democracy. You wouldn’t want to go a little mad, would you?


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