Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
I served under him, he was a good man.
Well, that's what the neighbors say about serial killers!
Believe you me, I am just as surprised as you are. Being a remake of one of my favorite political thrillers, I wasn't expecting much from this the first time I saw it. But by gosh, Jonathan Demme's update of The Manchurian Candidate is a taut political thriller that actually does a decent job of not shitting all over the source material. Perhaps it helped that both films are based on the same novel, but you have to give the screenwriters some credit for being able to update the setting from the Korean War to the Gulf War without the whole film falling apart. Plus, this film started my adoration of Liev Schreiber. I'll watch anything with him in it.
By far, the best actors in the film were Schreiber and Meryl Streep. Streep herself manages to make Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Shaw all her own, complete with her own creepy, controlling-mother tone that doesn't make me feel like she's carbon-copying the original performance. With a stellar supporting cast including Jon Voight, Jeffrey Wright, and Ted Levine, who really could have doubted that this had the potential to be at least somewhat good?
I love that the screenwriters chose to make the story their own way, all while leaving classic nods from the original novel (including parts that weren't in the 1962 film). One such scene involves a subtly hinted romance between Raymond and his mother. It just adds to the two characters' psychotic natures, and makes the film even creepier than it already was.
Although it definitely isn't near the masterpiece that the 1962 adaptation is, for what it's worth, Jonathan Demme's retelling of the classic political thriller is a good film in its own right. There's a lot of great, suspenseful moments, and it actually manages to be an overall well-made film in its own right. The stars in the film keep me interested in the plot, and the various updates to the original material were refreshing for a remake. It's a nice little delve into insanity that can be fun if you let it be.