Wednesday, March 22, 2006

V For Vendetta

The Wachowski Brothers, who proved with The Matrix trilogy to be masters of two of my least favorite things, pretensious gibberish and masturbatory special effects, have fully redeemed themselves in my eyes. V For Vendetta, which the brothers adapted from Alan Moore's graphic novel and was directed by their assistant director James McTeague, not only leaves all three of the pair's popular cyberpunk movies in the dust; it's one of the finest science fiction films to come out of a mainstream studio in years.

Set in a totiliarian future London where the people are controlled by an iron-fisted Chancellor, the story concerns Evey, (Natalie Portman), a young assistant at a TV station who is rescued from a group of crooked cops by a Zorro-like, knife-throwing, masked vigilante who calls himself V. For reasons beyond her understanding, but likely because her parents were also outspoken political activists, she becomes drawn to the mysterious man and his plan to blow up the Houses of Parliment, as Guy Fawkes attempted to do on the 5th of November, 1605. He gatecrashes the TV station where Evey works, and broadcasts a message all over London inviting the people to stand with him as he destroys the building, ensuring that the common person has the power to change his country as he sees fit.

The design of the film makes it very clear that this is the not-too-distant future - with a background pallette of mostly browns and greys, as well as a decidedly un-stylized cinematoraphy and editing style, the whole thing seems eerily feasable, like it could very well happen. There is a bullet-timey slowmo knife fight very late in the film which stands out a little in constrast, but the movie has been so great up until that point that I thought it had earned it.

The performances are stellar, multi-dimensional, and compelling. Natalie Portman, who I've always liked, and can be a fine actress when she tries hard (such as in Garden State and not in the Star Wars prequels) is terrific here. Stephen Rae does an excellent job as a detective assigned to go after V but gradually begins to come around to his way of thinking, and Stephen Fry is great as Mr. Deitreich, Evey's boss, a popular TV show host with something of a hidden agenda. The most notable of all, however, is Hugo Weaving as V. Whether he's throwing knives at lightning-quick speed, or cooking fried eggs on toast in a flowery apron, he dominates every frame of his screentime, displaying a wide range of emotions while covered up for the entirety of the film by his grinning white plastic mask. It's no easy feat, for sure, but the way he pulled it off is a thing of beauty.

The film has understandably sparked a good deal of controversy in Britain and America for depicting a sympathetic and heroic terrorist. Many conservatives in this country have read it as an attack on the current United States government. Alan Moore actually concieved it as an attack on Thatcher's England, incorporating imagery from Nazi Germany and George Orwell's 1984, so it's a testament to him that great controversial art continues to last. In my opinion, whether people embrace the ideologies in this film or storm out of the theater in disgust, this is exactly the kind of film we need right now. It's both a greatly entertaining and highly philosophical sci-fi political thriller masquerading as a comic book action blockbuster, which will draw in audiences (as it already has - its $25 million gross this weekend has put it at the top of the box office) who will come for the fun and stay for the mental workout. And in a time of sequels to Basic Instinct and movies starring Larry the Cable Guy, it couldn't be invited more.


Blogger Ayato said...

Yeah, it was pretty good, i'm still kinda depressed by the changes they made to the comics story though

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