The only good reason to remake a movie as historically significant as 1962's The Manchurian Candidate is to comment on the conspiracy culture that's formed since that film became a footnote to tragedy. It's an agenda this lumbering retread gets around to for about five minutes; the rest of the time, director Jonathan Demme merely exploits our 21st-century national insecurity while hoping that the results conform at least peripherally to opening-weekend headlines.
Strained stabs at relevance mark the story of Ben Marco (Denzel Washington), a Gulf War veteran who suspects that the most decorated man (Liev Schreiber) in his unit is now the pawn of insidious forces. The same scenarios of political conventioneering and maternal connivance remain from the original, though many of the story's specifics have been rejiggered. Schreiber's heart-rending performance as the guilt-wracked dupe is the most affecting aspect of a movie that's not only unnecessary but distressingly inactive and prone to the preposterous: In some sort of low for cineplex intrigue, a Google search is submitted as a major dramatic development. Watch for Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III: Just Ask Jeeves, coming next summer to an illegal downloading station near you.