2004 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Denzel Washington stars in Jonathan Demme's first-rate remake of the classic 1962 psychological thriller as US Army major Ben Marco, who suspects a conspiracy behind the race for the White House. The action shifts from the Korean War to the Gulf War, with Liev Schreiber as the president whose heroic past isn't quite what it seems and Meryl Streep a force to be reckoned with as his controlling mother.

Director

  • Jonathan Demme

Cast

  • Denzel Washington

  • Liev Schreiber

  • Meryl Streep

  • Jeffrey Wright

  • Jon Voight

  • Kimberly Elise

Review

The only sort of chip you might imagine settling inside US President George W Bush would be of the French fried variety.

However, vice presidential hopeful Raymond Shaw (Shreiber) also has a chip...a microchip which controls how he feels and - more disturbingly - how he acts.

The question is what would you prefer? Dubbya's foreign policy lumbering along without any constitutional checks... or Shaw's remote-controlled diplomacy.

Director Jonathan Demme has updated the 1962 Korean War conspiracy thriller to take in the first Gulf War and a fictional race for the presidency.

Shaw's bid for power is bolstered by the esteem he's held in by the American public for heroically saving an army unit from an Iraqi ambush in Kuwait back in 1991.

However, the troops' original commander Bennett Marco (Washington) is plagued by recurring dreams that suggest things didn't quite pan out in the accepted fashion.

For a start, Marco keeps getting flashbacks to what seems to be a brainwashing session in the desert - and his disturbing recall is backed up by fellow veterans.

When Shaw stands for the vice-presidency - backed by his gung-ho mother Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (Streep) - Marco decides to probe further.

However, he faces a battle with officialdom, who discredit him as an acute paranoid with Gulf War syndrome, and the shady global multi-national and political sponsor the Manchurian Corporation.

This is disturbing stuff from Demme, who is helped in no small degree by Washington's shambling Marco - a tense, nervy bundle of neuroses who trusts nobody.

Streep gives a scene-stealing performance as the Thatcherite Senator, verbally bulldozing a clear way for her ambitious son with just a hint of an Oedipus complex.

Conspiracy theorists will have a ball and when things appear they might be getting a little far-fetched, the workmanlike performances of Streep, Shreiber and Washington pull them back.

It's good, solid old-fashioned storytelling expertly updated for the New Millennium. Yes, kids, chips are definitely bad for you.

Tim Evans