Monday, March 20, 2006

V for Vendetta

Color me impressed. We saw V for Vendetta this last weekend and we were not disappointed. From the minds of the men that brought us The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers, comes a darkly comic vision of a world that has sacrificed freedom for what they consider to be security ... and discover their error all too late.

Sound familiar?

The graphic novel by Alan Moore that the screenplay was based on was a denouncement of Margaret Thatcher and the England of that time filtered through an environment reminscent of Nazi Germany. The Wachowski brothers, and the director of the movie, James McTeigue (1st AD from the Matrix movies) have modernized it, while keeping the setting in England.

McTeigue, despite having been groomed in the world of sci-fi laden movies like the Matrix and Star Wars, directs a suprisingly human and non-effects-laden film.

The actors are universally good. Hugo Weaving's dialogue behind the mask (as the main character V) can be hard to understand at times but does not significantly detract from his performance. I really like Weaving (Elrond in LOTR and Agent Smith in the Matrix) and he gives a stylized, flamboyant performance of a Phantom of the Opera type character. Natalie Portman as Evey does a great job. Thankfully, with Closer and this movie, she is able to actually have some roles that are not wooden characters(paging Mr. Lucas ... let someone else write dialog ... please). She has natural vulnerability and strength that are used in equal parts in this role. Evey is ironically very similar to John Hurt's character Winston Smith in 1984: a disaffected commoner in a totalitarian system that seeks to lift the yoke of oppression not because of any heroic desire but more from necessity.

The parallels to 1984 (even without the appearance of John Hurt) are obvious. From the general setting and feel of it to the ever-present appearance of media and TV's and finally to the story itself. But even more, in tone it reminds me of Fight Club and A Clockwork Orange ... though not as violent as those two films. You find yourself rooting for someone you feel guilty for liking. Are we products of our environment? Is V a terrorist? What is terrorism? Isn't being under the thumb of an oppressive government that uses fear as a tool terrorism? It certainly makes you reevaluate the black-and-white views of many people in our government now days. It's perhaps a scary path to go down, but it is thought-provoking. People should never be afraid of the power of ideas. It is the suppression of art and ideas that pervades this movie that makes you afraid of the path that we are going down.

I believe the biggest point of the movie is not effects or shock, but ideas:

"People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people"

"Writers use lies to tell the truth and politicians use lies to cover the truth up."

There are many scenes that are very obvious in their indictment of our current society:

  • Hooded prisoners a-la- Abu Graib in hidden prisons
  • A pompous, hypocritical TV host that purports to be on the side of God, the "Voice of London", that spouts invective (O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity)
  • A self-righteous leader who rose to power during a time of fear and exploits it to suppress freedom (also in the name of religion)
  • Wire-tapping made legal
  • TV whereever you look --- molding your life
  • Avian flu, viruses
  • Government in your bedroom
  • Fear as a tool
  • Use of the term "rendition"

Some people may take this movie too literally. It's not promoting terrorism. It's promoting people thinking. This movie is every bit as political as Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana and addresses treatment of minorities like Brokeback Mountain and Crash. But the difference is that those movies don't speak as much to a younger generation raised on Star Wars and the Matrix. If the fact that the Wachowski brothers are involved helps bring this younger generation in the door and opens their eyes a little bit ... more power to it.

My wife commented that she had to turn away from network television tonight because the similarities to the fictious ones in the movie were eerie. She went into this film with no real idea of what it was about and she was reluctant to even go because she thought it was in the Matrix vein. And she loved the movie. I went in with a lot of knowledge of it and loved it anyway. We highly recommend this movie.

Cyberkitten posted some nice movie posters for V for Vendetta on his site:

V for Vendetta
Resistance is Character Building
Revenge is Meal Best Served Cold


CyberKitten said...

Very good review. Saw this last night with some friends most of whom really enjoyed it. I'll be doing a review of my own in a day or two when it sinks in a bit more.

It's most certainly a film of ideas rather than action. The main idea for me (apart from the wonderful quote about Governments being afraid of their people) is that if you sell your freedom for the illusion of security, then you will have neither freedom nor security.

The film although based in a ficticious future is clearly speaking about present day events. Lets hope that it opens a few more peoples eyes.

Thanks, as always, for the links to my Blog.

dbackdad said...

How very Ben Franklin. And you are very right.

Related but in a odd way ... I watched ,Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the night after. You wouldn't think those two movies could be related. But I came away with similar feelings; that our government has forgotten whose in charge - the people.

Laura said...

I still think the Professional (or Leon) was one of Portman's best roles. I measure everything she does against that. It sounds like a great film. I wonder if anyone will "get" it...

dbackdad said...

Agreed. I loved the Professional. I believe it was Luc Besson's best movie. And it has one of my favorite actors ... Gary Oldman. BTW, happy birthday Gary Oldman.

CyberKitten said...

I've just posted my review.

greatwhitebear said...

going to see it tonight.. now I am REALLy looking forwad to it!

Shawn said...

I just saw this movie last night and left impressed. It was much better than I anticipated. I, like your wife, felt a bit odd when I turned on the television afterward.

Movies that leave you thinking are too few. I wish there were more.

Great review, by the way.