Director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) helms this highly charged thriller originally released in 1962, directed by the great John Frankenheimer and starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury and Laurence Harvey. Both films are based on the novel written by Richard Condon. Sinatra’s daughter Tina served as producer for the updated version.
Denzel Washington plays Captain Bennett Marco, who commanded soldiers during the first Persian Gulf War including Sgt. Raymond Shaw played by Liev Schreiber (RKO 281, Scream). It would’ve been great to see more of Ted Levine (TV’s Monk, Fast and Furious) and Jeffrey Wright (Shaft, Angels in America) in their supporting roles, but most of the action focuses on Marco and Shaw. Marco tries to contact his soldiers, so he can answer some important while Shaw, now a Congressman, contends with his overbearing mother, Eleanor, played by Meryl Streep. She constantly battles for her son’s political promotions and eventually reach the vice presidential nomination.
Screenwriters Daniel Pyne (The Sum of All Fears) and Dean Georgaris (Paycheck) modernize the timeline by swapping the timelines and settings. Audiences who have a high interest in current politics and news program will get a deeper experience than people looking for a good thriller. Filmmakers incorporate several recognizable supporting actors to broaden audience appeal. Prominent supporting characters include Rosie, played by Kimberly Elise (Beloved, John Q), Senator Thomas Jordan, played by Jon Voight, and his daughter Jocelyn who boosts Shaw’s character development.
Rachel Portman (Chocolat, Cider House Rules) provides an excellent music score and Wyclef Jean provides additional music including a remake of “Fortunate Son”. Portman was the first female composer to win an Academy Award™. Tak Fujimoto (The Sixth Sense, Silence of the Lambs) provides expert cinematography, especially important during some key lighting sequences, to support Demme’s amazing camerawork.
In 2002, Demme directed The Truth About Charlie, a remake of the classic film Charade. Appealing stars and great filmmaking helped Demme in both films, but a more intelligent screenplay adaptation and even more recognizable stars in this remake increase interest even though audiences who’ve seen the original may find this 2 hour and ten minute film predictable. Extraordinary filmmaking with current issues, yet some audiences will probably leave theaters with election year overload and minimal thrills.
Recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and rated R for violence and language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler