Monday, August 14, 2006

V for Vendetta: Grade A


V for Vendetta

Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt

This allegorical political action-thriller is set in an Orwellian future when the fascist British government controls the behavior, thought and beliefs of the cowed population. “V”, a masked terrorist or freedom fighter (depending on which side you are on), is a mixture of Zorro, Batman, and the Phantom of the Opera. He kills government officials, blows up state buildings, and goes on TV to suggest that “We’re mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it any more.” Natalie Portman becomes radicalized after her head is shaven by interrogators in one of many scenes eerily evocative of the Nazi regime. She becomes sympathetic to V and the revolution. Detective Rea hunts them both, despite his conscience and obstruction by Hitlerian Chancellor Hurt.

The characters and story are derived from a comic book (or “graphic novel”), explaining the silly visual clich├ęs. Perhaps to offset that two-dimensionality, when anything moves, whether a door opening or a hat being taken off, it is accompanied by ear-splitting, earth-shaking, irrelevant noise. Despite these contrivances, the movie carries a serious political message that is basically seditious if you look past the wild costumes and sets. It starts slowly, with stentorian speechifying and theatrical posturing, but once it gets going, the fine acting, excellent photography, and well-delivered message keep you hooked.

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