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Ultra HD : Recommended
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Release Date: March 19th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2004

The Manchurian Candidate (2004) - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4K UHD Review By: Sam Cohen
When Jonathan Demme turned his eye toward remaking The Manchurian Candidate, people were naturally concerned given his critical and commercial flop that was his 2002’s The Truth About Charlie, itself a remake of a much-beloved classic. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Demme’s The Manchurian Candidate, an unfailingly realistic-but-no-less-enthralling take on political corruption, to 4K Ultra HD with a two-disc release that offers a beautiful new 2160p transfer of the film aided by Dolby Vision HDR and a decent selection of archival special features. This release comes Recommended to all the Demme heads. There are dozens of us!

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray + Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p HEVC/H.265 - Dolby Vision HDR / HDR10
Length:
129
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 5.1/2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Release Date:
March 19th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Updating The Manchurian Candidate for a new millennium was no simple task for writers Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris. The duo changed the main villain from Communists to corporate shills who profit from war, but boy howdy did that exact change line up with the then all-too-real current events of 2004, like John Kerry being nominated as the presidential candidate for the Democrats on the same day the film released in the US. Unsurprisingly, the parallels between current events and the film were not drawn for years, as the timely film dropped at the exact same time we were going through similar events that this remake explores. 

An unwilling American audience wasn’t a problem for The Manchurian Candidate as much as an American audience overwhelmed with the same imagery that Demme weaponized within the film. I think about how much my 11-year-old brain didn’t quite understand how private corporate interests morph and contort public interests to engage in war, a thing that removes humanity and replaces it with imperialistic greed. The Gulf War was a genuine precursor to the turmoil that the US saw just a decade later with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The goal was always to control the world’s oil reserves, so all the comments from former soldiers about how the enemy they’re fighting feels like it’s coming from within hits harder in the film than ever. Or maybe that’s because the line between corporate involvement and Western foreign policy is clearer than ever.  

Political aspersions aside, The Manchurian Candidate follows Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington), a decorated commander who served during the Gulf War. A devastating enemy attack occurred one night while Marco and his troops took off for a normal reconnaissance patrol. Sergeant First Class Raymond Shaw (Live Schreiber) was awarded the Medal of Honor for single-handedly fending off the enemy forces and saving all but two of his fellow soldiers. Years later as a full-fledged Democrat congressman, Raymond is a possible contender for Vice President in the next election, and his mother, Virginia Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (Meryl Streep) is right behind her son ensuring his rise to political stardom. But when Marco is visited by one of the men he served with Al Melvin (Jeffrey Wright) who is suffering from confusing dreams and memories about their ambushed patrol, Marco begins to question his memory of events. Did Raymond Shaw really save them all, or is something more sinister going on?

The one huge visual motif that Demme uses throughout The Manchurian Candidate and many of his other films is the use of an almost uncomfortably close close-up to envelop the audience in a character’s interiority. Demme is an actor’s director and employs performers who have the unique, uncanny ability to have the camera as close to their face as possible without it becoming some kind of confessional. Demme usually searches for humanity in those close-ups, but here he uses them as a weapon, however slightly. This is a movie filled with uncomfortable, in-your-face shots meant to evoke the inner turmoil these brainwashed characters are going through. Closer inspection only makes you appreciate the craft at hand. The plot has all the makings of a political thriller, but its intense focus on the individual being affected by greater, more mysterious powers makes the film hit completely different than the original.

All in all, The Manchurian Candidate is acted within an inch of its life, given incredible breadth and depth of field by cinematographer Tak Fujimoto and carrying Demme’s trademark empathy. This is a work that can easily be carried away by nihilistic renderings of corporate greed that threaten to become outright cartoonish, but Demme and company walk that delicate line of believability easily. 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
“You are not in control.” The Manchurian Candidate comes home in 4K Ultra HD with a two-disc – UHD100 for the 4K and BD50 for the standard Blu-ray – release from Kino Lorber that comes in a standard black amaray case with an o-card slipcover over it. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, set up audio and explore bonus features.

Video Review

Ranking:

The Manchurian Candidate comes home in stunning 4K Ultra HD with a 2160p, HEVC-encoded transfer from Kino Lorber that’s sourced from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto shot everything on Panavision cameras and lenses, opting for depth and texture in just about every frame, and they used Kodak Vision 2383 film stock which has a very light grain field to begin with. From the outset, especially in the film’s low-lit intro that incorporates night-vision shots, black levels are enhanced and look better than ever. Even in the difficult setups within the Humvee that gets attacked in the first few minutes, I can now see all the faces of the soldiers as they play together and commiserate before being attacked. The previous Blu-ray always looked much too washed out in this scene. 

Luckily, for the rest of the presentation, we’re treated to a truly spotless and gorgeous rendering of Demme’s work, especially in those close-ups. Facial pores, sweat, tears and all things that make us human are emphasized so much in these shots and it’s a beauty to behold it all in 2160p aided by Dolby Vision HDR. If these close-ups were meant to remove the audience from reality and place them firmly in the mind of the tortured, then truer flesh tones and much better contrast only lends the film the power it seeks. Watching the mind become corrupted in real time can be a powerful thing. This is a very handsome transfer through and through, and will make both fans and newcomers very happy.

As for the standard Blu-ray, this is definitely the upgraded 4K transfer in 1080p rather than a port of an older master. You can be confident in the standard 1080p presentation of this restoration.

Audio Review

Ranking:

As for audio options, Kino provides both 5.1 surround and 2.0 lossless stereo tracks for you to enjoy. The previous releases of the film only had lossy stereo tracks, so the upgrade is very appreciated here and shows off the soundscape incredibly well. The 5.1 surround track does not add much dimension to the proceedings, save for some spare moments where the rear channels open up to add extra oomph, but even I’d go with the lossless 2.0 stereo track because it’s a truer representation of the film. Dialogue and music are balanced very well, and source seems to be in incredible condition with no damage to note.

Special Features

Ranking:

Now, for special features, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that no new supplements have been added for the 4K Blu-ray release of The Manchurian Candidate. That was to be expected, as unfortunately Demme has since passed away and I imagine the various Hollywood strikes had something to do with accessing talent from the film. That being said, Demme was involved in producing some EPK-style featurettes and supplements on the original DVD release, thus they’re a bit of step above your normal EPK supplements.  

4K UHD Disc

  • Commentary track with director Jonathan Demme and co-writer Daniel Pyne

Blu-ray Disc

  • Commentary track with director Jonathan Demme and co-writer Daniel Pyne
  • The Enemy Within: Inside The Manchurian Candidate (SD 14:05)
  • The Cast of The Manchurian Candidate (SD 11:54)
  • Political Pundits: Featurette with Optional Commentary by Jonathan Demme (SD 10:00)
  • Liev Schreiber Screen Test (SD 2:50)
  • Deleted / Extended Scenes: With Optional Commentary Jonathan Demme and Daniel Pyne (SD 9:34)
  • Outtakes: With Optional Commentary Jonathan Demme and Daniel Pyne (SD 2:42)

Mind control is only a small part of the internal terror within The Manchurian Candidate, Jonathan Demme’s 2004 remake of John Frankenheimer’s classic political thriller. Kino Lorber Studio Classics has provided the film with a stellar 2160p presentation sourced from a new 4K scan of the OCN, plus they’ve carried over all the previously produced supplements available on the older Blu-ray and DVD releases of the film. For those who are eager to see how this remake holds up two decades later, this release comes Recommended

Order Your Copy of The Manchurian Candidate (2004) on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray