V for Vendetta
Escaping the theater without the idea that this is not just a fun, action packed, pseudo-sci-fi thriller (in the vein of "A Clockwork Orange" for example), but actually a social commentary on how the film makers envision our future - given the current state of unrest in the world and given the current leaders in the two most powerful counries on the planet - is impossible and would be laughable if anyone was ignorant enough to do so. By the way, that is probably the longest sentence I have ever written. **Author pats himself on the back.**
The film revolves around a central character known only as "V." We are never able to see the true identity of the mysterious V as he is always wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and costume - that would be Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. Taking place about 20 years from now in London, V feels it is up to him to curb the fascist government that has taken over the country. Because of his past experiences, which the film explores, he develops the notion that the only way to stop the oppressive government is to fight back using terrorist tactics, such as destroying buildings and killing government officials.
The governement in the film is terribly oppressive; incarcerating homosexuals, evening curfews, one government controlled media outlet, killing anyone with a Koran, etc. One would expect any person to lash out at such a government, and V is that "hero." The film draws very obvious connections between our current government and that of the government in the film. There is one scene where a flag is on display (in a museum of sorts). The flag is a collage of the British flag, the American flag and a swastika. Written over the collage are the words, "coalition of the willing." This isn't even a hint. It is a blatant finger at the British/American coalition against Iraq and generally insinuating that we are nazis. Rolling Stone has equated some of the characters with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove to name a few. The film even goes so far as to, not so subtly, suggest that George Bush was behind the Sept 11th attacks on the WTC.
Feel how you want about the message of the film, the action just isn't there as much as I'd hoped given the Wachowski brothers modus operandi. It focussed far too much on back story and philosophic arguments and lessons. The playwright quoting V does exact revenge on those that wronged him; very skillfully and thoroughly I might add. But it's nothing we haven't really seen before until the final "show-down" so to speak. Remember in The Matrix, on the top of the building when Neo leans back to avoid the bullets as we see them in slow motion narrowly wizz by his body? That was the Wachowski brothers artistic contribution to world cinema that became a phenom and copied by hundreds. Although the same won't be said, I don't believe, about the final show-down in "V," the artistic tactic employed in showing the knife wielding V dispatching of his enemies was way cool and something I'd definitely like to see more of. So despite the fact that there wasn't as much action or sword fighting scenes as I'd like to have seen in the film, the ones that are present are impressive and fun to watch.
Although we never see V's face, the voice is that of the unmistakable Hugo Weaving (Mr. Smith in The Matrix trilogy). We never see his lips move, his eyebrows raise or his nose twitch; but the dialogue he speaks and his body movements - even the tilt of his head, really bring life to the character. A reminder of how great Darth Vader's or C-3PO's character is, even though you never see their face. I've also really grown to admire Natalie Portman ever since I saw "Garden State." Her performance as V's "student" really brings that raw talent out of her once again and I enjoyed her performance immensely. Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two is mediocre at best. They are both better served when they are not together in a scene.
Light on the CGI, but heavy with pyrotechnics and models, V stands for everything I like about the world of SFX. I like sets and models of buildings as stand-ins rather than the fakey looking CGI ones. I prefer that if something is going to blow up, that it actually blows up and not a computer painting what it thinks an explosion would look like. Vendetta scores well with me on this point. Just a side note: watching some of the specific buildings blow up in this film gave me no pleasure whatsoever. I literally felt a little twinge in my stomach and heart at some of the landmarks that are destroyed.
This is a film that will get high praise at first, especially by the Wachowski fan base and leftists. The explosion will probably die down some after a couple of weeks of it's release though. Think of "V for Vendetta" as sort of a "Phantom of the Opera" meets "Desperado" in a "Clockwork Orange-esque" future created by the Wachowski brothers. That may seem convoluted, but I quote Roger Ebert: "V for Vendetta makes incoherence really entertaining." Less action and more thought provoking than I'd hoped, but still got me interested in the characters, their lives and the whys and hows of the lessons they've learned. Be prepared for a social commentary slammed in your face and dammit, just not enough of that sweet final show-down! A rare number rating, I give "V for Vendetta," 3 1/2 stars out of 5.