Once upon a time in the shadow of the 'eve of a Blue Moon there appears a re-make that isn't a re-make at all. The Manchurian Candidate which opens today is its predecessor in name only.

In this first real coming of age post-September 11 political convention of the boomer generation, it might as well still be 1962 - wars on every horizon, nuclear threats lurking in every corner, paranoia fulfilling every dark expectation - but it isn't.

2004 commands its own place in history and neither will it be relegated to the cinematic archival tray of history. And this is where Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate takes a nose-dive into a subterranean horror-land where what's make-believe - no matter how gory or scary - is still far more benign than the reality of now.

Here, mind control is the ultimate weapon in a terrorist's arsenal. The Manchurian Candidate is ultimately one man's searing journey home from the foreign battlefield via the political American landmines that he traverses to a self-exorcism from the implants of evil.

The universe of brilliance shared by Denzel Washington's live-to-die portrayal of Ben Marco, coupled with the slender vanities of power as expressed by Meryl Streep’s Senator Shaw, when side-showed up against the glass jaw of her incest-mired son, Vice-Presidential candidate Raymond Shaw [Liev Schreiber] who is directed to assassinate the only woman he ever loved and her Father [Jon Voight], the nemesis of Shaw's Mother, is eclipsed by Jeffrey Wright as Al Melvin.

During a 1991 tour in Kuwait, Melvin knew Marco as his commanding officer who he trusted and admired. Melvin is the cracked man - the American who comes home only to die because he is the vessel through which the light gets in. Once Melvin lets Marco in the bell begins to ring, quietly, barely until the crescendo is so overwhelming that the indisputable truth is heard, outside.

If truth is stranger than fiction for this The Manchurian Candidate to succeed it would have to illuminate every crevice of anxiety, steel even nerves of granite and bathe the sorrows of the maimed, the bereaved, and the dis-spirited.

Every work of art aspires to achieve and yet often falls upon the hard-nut of reality with meteoric intensity. But not this, The Manchurian Candidate.

Leonard Cohen has observed: "Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

And is The Manchurian Candidate the film ever one imperfect, cracked offering that rings the bell! And that's the triumph of The Manchurian Candidate - despite the fact that it never gets off the tarmac, never soars but as it implodes layer upon hideous layer into itself, it rings the bell still!

The furor, the ferocity, the fulsome excess rampant throughout The Manchurian Candidate - that desperation itself provides a tender, touching, almost theological titillation. America is cracked. Did you hear it?

A tsunami of mini-tidal waves - geo-political, corporate, legal - have converged from within and from without our borders and the fissures threaten to dismantle our very collective societal soul.

Deny the message of The Manchurian Candidate at your peril. Ignore the crack and you will be denied the light. Never did a modern film seek to so unrelentingly fend-off easy escape. Just as the platoon soldiers who survived their 'night in the desert' storm can't hide from the hell of their dreams, neither can the viewer run from his or her seat.

You sit down for The Manchurian Candidate and you are strapped in, albeit without a strap. You are commanded to see, but with new eyes. And dare to dream, well beyond present reality.

This is one movie that rejoices in the crack that has become America because that's how the light will get in. It taunts us with the mantra: "Everything Is Under Control" all the while foreshadowing a so-called "Secure Tomorrow".

PHILADELPHIA, the City of Brotherly Love, safeguards our nation's sacred cracked bell. The Manchurian Candidate insists - for all its 130 minutes - that attention be paid: freedom's bell - ring it loud, ring it as long as it takes to take back responsibility for freedom and to let the light in from the darkness through its cracks.

It took a flawed, frayed, flailing film to ring anew the bell that has always been cracked - to let the light shine in.

Do you hear that cracked bell - it still tolls for thee… But for how long?

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