Saturday, September 02, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: V for VENDETTA

"...a singular masterpiece that strips down the elements of today's society...
V for Vendetta
Rated R for violence, language and disturbing images
Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman,
Stephen Rea, John Hurt

Directed by James McTiegue

On DVD: now


*** This comment contains minor spoilers ***

"...violence can be used for good...justice..."
That single line tells you all you need to know about the mindset of the title character, V (Hugo Weaving), who uses violence to get back at those who wronged him and his native Britain in this marvel of modern cinema. It isn't just simple, mindless violence that the masked terrorist uses to avenge his injustices; no, he uses a calculating form of destruction specifically designed to punish those responsible. The results are both horrifying and gratifying at the same time.

We are introduced to V through Evey ("E-V, of course") Hammond (Portman), an employee at the government-run news channel BTN. She is out after the imposed curfew and finds herself being detained by agents of the High Chancellor (John Hurt). As they threaten to rape her, the masked figure emerges from the shadows and promptly slices up the men in order to save the girl. Rather than leave her there he takes her to his "lair," a plush retreat he calls the Shadow Gallery. Once there, he reveals his intentions to Evey by showing her the fruits of his labor: the demolition of a downtown landmark and subsequent spread of panic and fear throughout London. "People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people," V tells her with voice that both comforts and chills. "Are you going to kill more people?" "Yes," he answers flatly. THAT line alone could win Weaving an Oscar- I still have chills down my spine from his heartless nonchalance regarding human life.

As the tale unfolds, we learn that it's not the lives of ordinary citizens that V is planning to terminate but those of a select group of government leaders and influential community members. Why is the man in the Guy Fawkes mask vowing to carry out what the British freedom fighter and his co-conspirators could not do in 1605- bring down Parliament? Because those inside are responsible for the condition that V is currently in, burned and barely human, but determined to settle the score with those responsible. "I've not come for what you'd hoped to do, I've come for what you've done," he tells one of his victims as she pleads for mercy. "Are you going to kill me now?" she asks. "I killed you 10 minutes ago" he tells her. As his reign of revenge renders hypocritical higher-ups in pools of poison-filled puke, Evey is both mortified and mesmerized by the mysterious masked madman. So was I. A police officer, Chief Inspector Dietrich (Rea), has been trying to solve the case of who the man behind the mask is, but every time he digs deeper into the past he is ordered to look away, or else. Still he continues to piece together the puzzle, and what he discovers puts the exploits of the terrorist in new light- V may have a just cause for his vendetta after all; the men in charge of the country are not the people they appear to be, but they are responsible for the state that their nation is in. On the 5th of November, the day that Fawkes is celebrated and one year after his reign of terror began, V will go out with a bang, bringing down Parliament and all of its' corrupt members. Or will it be his beautiful muse who lights the fuse?

Much has been said about this film glamorizing terrorism and demeaning government. After all, the central character is a debonair terrorist and the totalitarian government is portrayed as a controlling, corrupt, power-hungry entity. I don't believe that the talented director, James McTiegue, nor the creator of the graphic novel the story is based on, Alan Moore, intended it to be seen in that light. It is what it is-a fun, fascinating, thought-provoking story that is like nothing ever seen before on film. It has been said to contain elements of everything from "Batman" to "Phantom of the Opera," but V FOR VENDETTA is a singular masterpiece that strips down the elements of today's society and asks us to examine what's inside.

Everything about this film stands out! The acting is top-notch; Weaving, wearing a mask the entire film, should easily earn an Oscar nod for his entrancing portrayal of the chilling villain, and Princess Amidala Portman finally conveyed a range of emotions, proving she's NOT just another (very) pretty face. The supporting actors are terrific as well. Hurt, as the megalomaniacal Chancellor; Rea, as the gutsy cop; Steven Fry, as Evey's co-worker and confidant; Gordon and Tim Piggot-Smith, as the loathsome politico Creedy. The music was also excellent; from the "1812 Overture" during V's destruction of property, to the golden oldies in his antique jukebox, to the perfect closing number: the Stones' "Street Fighting Man" (listen to the words). The cinematography was simply amazing; the Wachowski Brothers' "Matrix" influence could definitely be felt, especially in the awesome dagger showdown scene near the end. The lighting, colors, shadows and camera angles were all perfect and set the tone for an actual graphic novel come to life, without all the gimmicks of a "Sin City."

All in all, one of the best films I have seen in a long time and easily one of the best of the year; one that will remain in my head for a long time to come. It did not make me want to embrace terrorism and anarchy-- it just made me think.

1 comment:

patrick said...

watched V for Vendetta recently, loved it. eye-candy effects, amazing how much character they developed into a mask, then again, maybe he was more than a mask...