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V for Vendetta /

Rated: R

Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt

Directed by: James McTeigue

Produced by: Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Written by: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Distributor: Warner Bros.


Natalie Portman as Evey in Warner Bros. Pictures' V for Vendetta

Hugo Weaving in Warner Bros. Pictures' V for Vendetta

Natalie Portman as Evey in Warner Bros. Pictures' V for Vendetta

     Now, here I am presented with the age-old critical dilemma that every reviewer pulls their teeth out over: should a film be judged solely on its cinematic qualities, or also on the message it chooses to convey? Huh?—you’re thinking. V for Vendetta? Isn’t that the Natalie Portman action-movie written by those two guys who made The Matrix? The one that’s based on a comic-book? The one with the hero that wears that strange mask as he frolics around carrying out whatever justice he carries out? How could such a dilemma arise over that movie?


     Well, color yourself stunned; there’s more to V for Vendetta than its trailer might suggest. In it, Natalie Portman plays Evie, a TV-station reporter living in London, in an alternate reality set twenty years from now. In this alternate reality, the United Kingdom has been taken over by fascism and is controlled by a dictator, while America merely stands by and watches due to a massive plague that has wiped out half of its population. The only person that can save the British Citizens from the regime oppressing them is V (Hugo Weaving of Agent Smith-fame), the mysterious masked-man who looks so cool in all of the film’s promotional materials. He is a proclaimed “terrorist” who sees the need to violently rebel against the government. Early on in the movie, V comes to Evie’s aid as she is being violently hassled by curfew-officers when walking home late one night. While thankful for being saved, this regretfully (or perhaps by destiny?) brings her into V’s life, forcing her to hide from the government who sees her as his conspirator.


     A basic description of V for Vendetta hardly makes it seem at all controversial, but the film’s presentation and context imply otherwise. If V is rightfully rebelling against an oppressive fascist government, then why does the script insist on dubbing him a “terrorist” rather than a “revolutionary”? I could understand this if only his targets used such a title in referring to him because of their status as antagonists in the story, but V himself seems to bask in the glory of the term. It seems troubling to me to be associating the idea of terrorism with a hero who not only stages attacks on a Nazi-like regime, but even takes the time to throw in some fireworks for the public to enjoy when bombing a government-facility. All of this seems even more peculiar when one links it to the references made to Western Attitudes towards Islamic Terrorism in the film, especially those regarding the government-mandated censorship of the Koran in Evie and V’s society.


     However misguided some of the film’s suggestions may be, my prominent mentioning of them also underscores the thoughtful ideas that the movie actually has to offer. In the modern-day international climate, are Western Societies doing all they can to protect Democracy? Are they suffering because they do not understand enough about their terrorist enemies? From this perspective, V for Vendetta is fascinating: while most films of the sort take on a third-person POV, it instead allows the audience’s sympathies to lie within the relationship between “terrorist” V and the innocent Evie. The viewer is able to see the attacks against the government from the rebels’ viewpoint. This is pulled off much thanks to Portman and Weaving’s excellent performances.


     The action in V for Vendetta is probably the least interesting thing about it, as the movie is just as much (if not more) about ideas—for better or for worse—than sci-fi allegories. However, that is not to say that its more fantastical scenes aren’t well-done; the film’s dark, foggy, and macabre art direction suits it brilliantly and looks gorgeous. Although it’s a little long and slightly more sprawling than I would’ve hoped, V for Vendetta is, in many ways, all one could ask for in a mainstream movie. Thus, again, I return to my original dilemma: should I be more eager to praise it, or more questioning towards its liberal definition of terrorism? For now, I’ll merely find a harmony between the two and say that it’s certainly an interesting movie that deserves to be seen, regardless of one’s impression of it.


-Danny, Bucket Reviews

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