The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
It’s not a spy thriller but it is in the genre because of MKUltra and sleeper agents. Raymond Shaw is the ultimate agent in place, capable of receiving voice commands while being well placed politically. I suppose this one would technically fall under corporate espionage while the original was more classic Cold War fare.
I like it but don’t want to watch it over and over again. It’s grimly intense. I have actually read the book and I don’t think this movie strays from the original concepts too far. People go on and on about Meryl Streep but Liev Schreiber and Denzel Washington were equally well played for their roles. The part I hate is the saddest, when Shaw and Marco are talking in the classroom and Shaw keeps asking him if they were friends. At that point you have all this backstory and context for why he would ask someone that and how desperately he wants to hear that he had someone outside the life his mother had created for him.
Many people hear the term “Manchurian Candidate” tossed around and the implication is usually a bad person in disguise as a good one who is acting in the best interests of some nefarious cartel instead of the best interests of his official cover organization. We forget sometimes that in the novel and movies, the actual candidate had little control over events and his own actions. He’s not a bad guy, not really. And that’s part of the meaningfulness of the story that gets lost. It’s the everyman Cinderella spy story except the evil stepmother is the one calling the shots, not the fairy godmother. It’s a reversal of the classic fantasy. It gets paired also with the whistleblower branded paranoid conspiracy theorist concept fairly neatly.
Interesting to see Schreiber 6 years later in Salt albeit with a demotion and no moral qualms.
Everyone should see The Manchurian Candidate.
p.s. John McCain may sound similar but it’s more what happened to Bill Colby in Phoenix that seems sketchy, personally.