Manchurian Candidate Ending - Spoilers

Some good acting by Merryl Steep and Denzel, but WTF happened in the ending. Who was the guy in the sunglasses on the surveillance tape? Who got edited in in place of Denzel? Did Manchurian Global go down or not?

I feel so dumb.

(Warning just in case it wasn’t obvious from the thread title:


My impression is that they used a picture of a “known terrorist” to replace Denzel’s image. This way they can explain the assassination without revealing the truth.

I, too, am still wondering who that guy in the sunglasses is. They seemed to go out of their way to emphasise that he is somehow important, but did I just zone out when they explained what the imortance was?

And what is the deal with the implant under the skin below the shoulder? That is clearly not a “mind controlling” device of any kind (both Denzel and Schreiber lose theirs yet are still 100% cntrollable), so what was it’s purpose?

Do we just assume that the various secret service agents that help the assassination plot take place are also under mind control? They never indicate that anyone else aside from the Kuwait Army unit is “brainwashed” but it is the only thing that seems to make sence. Or (again) am I just missing something here?

Is there any real explanation as to how Shaw is so controlled that he is able to kill the only woman he ever “loved” but is able to break away from instructions at the critical moment to get himself (and his mother: what a bonus!) killed to prevent the bad guys from winning?


I thought the secret service agents were just part of Manchurian Co. like Meryl Streep was.

I was a bit confused about the insertion of the terrorist in the video too.

  1. If she was doing it to protect Denzel, well, there was no indication on from the tape that Denzel was the guy, anyway.

  2. Why did they show us the exact clip earlier when “Rosy” was watching the security video of people coming in. Was she thinking, “oh, I might need to photoshop this later on so I’ll start thinking about it now.”

The chips-in-the-back thing was never fully explained.

  1. It didn’t change anything when they were removed.

  2. Liev had one in his brain, also, so why have two chips

3a) Denzel didn’t have one in his brain but he could still be controlled the same way that Liev could, so why did Liev have one in the brain at all?

3b) If Denzel did have one in his brain, why didn’t his have to be updated like Liev’s.

I thought Streep’s performance was over the top, a little hammy, and distracting. JMO. I always like Denzel.

Overall: B-. Watchable, but forgettable. Might be more fun if you’ve never seen the first one and didn’t know anything about it.

Thanks, I don’t feel so dumb now. This movie could have been great with some better editting and more explanation.

I give it an A, but I had never seen the first one and didn’t know anything about it, as you said! But I realize the original is a classic, so I rented it and I plan to watch it later today. I just think the new version was a terrific movie, and one of the best of 2004, but I’m sure my not knowing the story helped that a lot.

I was confused by the ending too, but here’s my take on it:

The shoulder chips were not used for control, but served some other purpose – tracking the sleepers perhaps, or monitoring their body chemistry.

Washington’s character – Marco – *did * have an implant in his brain, but it got fried when he underwent electroshock treatment. I don’t think he was fully free of his prior conditioning though, if he had been I think he would have told Rosie about Manchurian Global’s assassination plan instead of going AWOL from the classroom.

But it had worn off sufficiently by the time of the victory celebration so that Marco could break away from his instructions at the crucial moment. Schriber’s character Shaw, OTOH, was always under total control. It’s just that, IIRC, his instructions went something like, “When you reach this mark, the president-elect will be shot, then do so-and-so.” And of course the president-elect wasn’t shot.

In regards to the secret service, was anyone involved besides the man who planted the rifle? If not, he didn’t have to be brainwashed, just susceptible to bribery. And I don’t recall him as being around the presidential party later on, so it’s possible he wasn’t a secret service agent at all, just a Manchurian minion in disguise.

And as for the man in sunglasses, I don’t think he was important. I think Rosie pretended she was interested in him to distract her co-worker’s attention from the one she was really interested in.

I think Demme was trying to walk a fine line in this film and didn’t quite pull it off. He needed to have the audience believe that Marco was capable of killing the PE, but his sudden ability to throw off his conditioning couldn’t come from out of the blue. But the more he established Marco’s freedom of action, the less suspenseful the ending would be. I think Demme decided to heighten the tension at the cost of the story.

All in all, I like the remake, but I think it suffers in comparison to the original.

Something else has occurred to me. In the classroom scene, Shaw says something to Marco like, “Did you think they couldn’t factor you in?” That leads me to believe Marco’s involvement in the assassination attempt was a late addition to the plan. That would also explain why Marco didn’t have a handler and why his implants weren’t upgraded like Shaw’s.

But if that’s what it was, it was one seriously kick-ass ad-lib. I mean, look at it. Here’s this guy, Marco, who’s already been discharged from the military for being mentally unstable, you’ve got dozens of witnesses to testify he talked about nightmares and vast brainwashing conspiracies, he’s already confronted Shaw on multiple occasions - and on his own initiative - and he’s even physically assaulted him. It’s almost too perfect.

But if death-at-the-victory-party wasn’t the original plan, what was? Did they plan to kill the guy at the inauguration? Plant a bomb on Air Force One? What? And if Marco was supposed to be involved from the get-go, why *didn’t * he have a handler, etc?

I think Marco still was under control. Shaw broke free from his conditioning and took the president’s mark so that Marco would shoot him instead. He then dragged his mother towards him so that she would be killed as well. Marco was confused because the VP was where the president should have been.

That’s possible of course, and I agree with you that this could have been a great film with some additional editing and exposition. I still lean toward Marco being free from the condition because at least some pretext for his independence is given (the electroshock) while none is given for Shaw.

Oh well, perhaps Demme will clear the matter up in the DVD commentary…

That was my impression, too. She wanted to make sure it was really Denzel she saw, but she didn’t want her friends to know that’s who she was looking at.

Shaw’s mom specifically told him he needed to make sure he stood in the right spot while he was still under control. The only thing I can think of that might have helped him break his conditioning was when his mom kissed him passionately, right before the camera cut away. At least, that’s what the movie implied she was doing. Possibly that incident increased his self-loathing enough to allow him some freedom of thought and action. Just my WAG.

nuff said

Right. But of course, it was never made clear.

I forgot about the electroshock. They said it was to undo the brainwashing, “reboot” as it were.

But, that leads to another question: Marco is still able to be controlled, so it either didn’t kill the chip and didn’t reboot him (and I assume that electroshock would kill the chip), or the chip in the brain doesn’t really matter – so then why have Shaw’s chip get updated.

And from a movie-making standpoint, why do the electroshock AT ALL since it didn’t add anything to the plot. He was still brainwashed afterwards.

I, for one, thought it was Shaw who threw off the conditioning. He missed the mark intentionally, and then hit it again later. It didn’t bother me that he had killed the girl earlier, but sometime in between “broke out” a little bit.

It seems silly that Marco was told “shoot at this spot when the mark is hit” instead of “shoot the president when the mark is hit.”

You know, most other movies, I’m not one to pick apart the logic like this. But this is the type of movie in which the logic of it is a major factor in creating the tension. If you scrutinized “The Usual Suspects” it all stood up. Or, “Spartan”.

But I think this discussion clearly shows that

  1. Every one in this thread is a moron missing something completely obvioius.
  2. Demme was not very neat about keeping the logic consistent.

I think I’d be more forgiving if this movie “did tension” as well as “Silence of the Lambs”. Then I could write it off as a great thriller with a couple of holes. But, I return to what I said earlier: given that I knew from the start that the characters were all brainwashed and that there would be an assassination attempt at the end, there was a lot less to keep me thinking, dig?

Are you including yourself as one of the morons, Trunk? :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m assuming the chip in the brain does matter - which is why Shaw’s chip is updated. I’m also assuming the electroshock didn’t kill the chip, but damaged it so that Marco could fight his conditioning. From a movie-making standpoint, the only reason to include the electroshock scene was to set up that exact payoff - he wasn’t under total control.

IIRC Marco was given his instructions off camera, but I agree it would be silly to be told to shoot at a spot instead of the president. A more logical assumption would be that Marco was told to shoot the president and *was * fighting his conditioning.

We may be wrong in assuming that this is an “Either/Or” situation. Why couldn’t both men have been fighting the brainwashing?

I stand by my original statement. Demme withheld information from the audience to heighten the tension, but the film would have been better served if the story had been more coherently.

“if the story had been *told * more coherently.” Dammit, the preview button is right there!

This was the impression I got, too. After Shaw avoids the mark the first time, we see several instances where he very obviously stares up at the area where Marco is hiding. It seemed to me that Shaw was trying to communicate with Marco. I seem to recall Marco blinking a few times - perhaps trying to shake off his conditioning as well? Then, when Shaw hits the mark and pulls his mother in, he stares up over her shoulder right at Marco as if to say “NOW” - and then the shot. Marco HAD to have known he was hitting Shaw.

I was a little confused about the electroshock also. Maybe it was effective in releasing the memories because they were already trying to break free (the nightmares), whereas the hypnotize command was stronger and more deeply hidden in Marco’s brain because it hadn’t been used yet. Thus, the electroshock didn’t reach it.

Warning: Zombie Thread.[RIGHT]BRAAAAAINS!!![/RIGHT]

I have read the updated Forum Sticky which states that it is OK for me to resurrect this thread, so I am. I watched this on DVD last night, and I have some questions about the ending b/c it confused me.

How were Marco and Shaw both able to break free from their conditioning?

Shaw definitely has broken free. He deliberately walks in front of the President, invites his mother on stage, then repeatedly looks up at Marco, almost commanding him to shoot. As the last second, he holds his mother in place and stares up one last time.

How did he break free, when he was unable to do so only days before while drowning his ex-girlfriend and Senator Father?

Marco appears to have also been able to break free fom his conditioning. He was ordered to kill the President, but instead he shoots Shaw and his mother. Then he tries to shoot himself, which I inferred to be part of the programming. (Meryl Streep mentioned something like “Assassins always die - it helps with the national mourning”).

The only thing I can think of is that Shaw ordered Marco to shoot them both in the scene where he hands Marco his phone with his mother on the line, which we didn’t see. In that case, I still don’t understand how Shaw was able to break free.


Argh I hated this movie!! This is one of the few times I ever considered pulling out the DVD midway through and going to bed.

Main reason I hated it: I really didn’t care what happened to any of these people, not even Denzel. Demme really never gave us any reason to care about any of these people, only that we were supposed to hate Meryl Streep’s character and feel sorry for her son.

It was alot of style over substance, and from reading this thread I see I wasn’t the only one confused about many of the plot points.

I felt the original had a lot of black humor that Demme’s version lacked. Demme was taking the whole story way too seriously, which makes you do things like have to pay attention to plot holes.

I thought that the brainwashing only woke up Denzel’s memories of when they were brainwashed and didn’t have any effect on the brainwashing itself.

I also think that Shaw broke free when he killed his ex-girlfriend…the shock of seeing her dead “woke him up” and he was just going along with things from then on until he got his chance to redeem himself.

It didn’t seem to me that Denzel broke his conditioning. I thought that he was just waiting for the right shot…that’s why Shaw had to stand on the mark and put his back to him. Also, he immediately went for the handgun and the suicide shot. I would think that if he had broken free that there would have at least been some hesitation about that part.

That’s my take on it anyway.

I thought Meryl Streep’s obvious parody of Hillary Clinton was pretty damned amusing.