V for Vendetta: An intellectually intriguing work of cinematic art.
A review by Mary Kate Leibman
Thrilling and daring, V for Vendetta is more than just a movie based on a comic; it is the catalyst for intense political debate. The film will keep you on the edge of your seat, and not because of fancy CGI and stunts. Produced by the Wachowski brothers (responsible for the Matrix trilogy) the film outdoes the success of the Matrix by far. It is brilliant in the way it entwines two separate stories into one intense plot. It is a film which takes us into the realms of a completely new world: one in which our freedoms have been stripped, and America is no more.
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and directed by James McTeigue, the story revolves around Evey (played by the multi-talented Natalie Portman), a slave who works at the government-run TV station. She is introduced to us as a quiet, shy, obedient citizen of the current British Totalitarian government set in the near future. After being out after the government appointed curfew, Evey is approached by the government police who attempt to rape and attack her. It is here that we are introduced to V, the masked avenger who sets out to kill off the key members of the totalitarian British state. He rescues Evey from her attackers, and takes her to the rooftop where he blows up the Old Bailey.
V explains that the destruction of the Bailey must happen in order to remember the 5th of November. The 5th of November, 1605 is when revolutionary Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Parliament. V states that on the next year of this date, he will assure Parliament’s destruction. Here starts the revolution, as the impressionable Evey bites into V’s plan hook, line, and sinker.
Throughout the movie, the filmmakers make an artistic attempt to tie in symbolic undertones to parallel today’s government with the totalitarian regime in Britain. For the politically savvy, the allusions to today’s fear-based politics in the Bush administration are hard to ignore.
High Chancellor Suttler, played with chilling detail by John Hurt, is what many consider to be today’s Bush. He stands in front of a screen telling his cronies that the people need to believe that they are endangered. Somehow, one can’t deny this is exactly how Bush was re-elected, playing the terrorist card.
What is more is that terrorism plays a key role in this film. And no, they are not from the mid-east either. Anarchy was the key theme in the graphic novel, which the film was based on. V is the anarchist in this movie. He is labeled a terrorist in the movie. And a massive manhunt ensues to try and find him and bring him to government style justice.
V was the unfortunate victim of a fire in a government testing facility. He underwent cruel experiments and was exposed to viruses that would eventually wipe out a 3rd of Britain.
It is no wonder that the viewer is supposed to sympathize with the terrorist. It is the real genius in this movie the way we as viewers sympathize with the terrorist. Ultimately, regardless of political ideals, the filmmakers have us questioning government.
With strong symbolic ties to the current administration, the makers of this movie have us realizing that the government is just as lethal as the terrorists who challenge it. Though exaggerated in this movie, the producers want us to believe the government is the real threat.
Treating V like a hero and giving him a cause glorifies his stance as a revolutionary. Much like the play Wicked, it toys with our notion of what is good and evil. More so, it has us questioning why people do evil things (or what is considered to be evil).
After the connections have been established through symbolism, we start to see clever ploys that attempt to inject more criticism of government. The filmmakers allude that the American military are terrorists, and government profits off of other’s misfortunes.
Brilliantly disguised in a heroic tale of revenge, V for Vendetta really comes across as a tool of propaganda for certain leftist beliefs (of which some are true).
On the other hand, the movie focuses on the manipulation of Evey, and how convincing V can be. He manipulates her into his cause by having her face her fears. Facing her past, Evey is able to rationalize V’s killing spree of government officials.
The cinematography also plays with the emotions more than your average film. As it is supposed to be; a movie is supposed to externalize the internal. Using brilliant color schemes to reflect certain feelings, the film will make you feel as cold as the blue tone of night, and as warm as the yellow of the day. Frequently, the lighting will change drastically, so much so, that you feel the change of emotion in the pit of your stomach. At certain points, the film takes on a “noir” feel to it, using shadows to create edgy effects of suspense right out of a 40s horror flick. All in all the film combines artistic cinematography to illuminate the emotions of the viewer.
Though a genius political thriller, the film never strays from its action packed roots. Sorry Matrix fans, no dodging bullets here just plain old Zorro style sword fights. With V’s charming side to him, it seems as if you are watching something out of The Count of Monte Crisco (V’s favorite movie).
Almost perfect, the movie does have some definite weaknesses. In fact, the film is very confusing. The filmmakers try to reach too many different audiences with stories, sub-stories, and a smattering of symbolism. On one hand we have the intricate relationship between V and Evey. Love story, not exactly, but Hollywood would want you to think so. We have the tackling of major current events to reach the politically intellectual viewers. With the amount of symbolism they use, it becomes tiring trying to piece it all together. In the end one tires because their brain feels like it has exhausted it’s self into a state of paralysis; where the only thing that will make you function again is a trip to the bathroom (a well needed diversion from a drawn out film).
Overall, this movie was a creative way to insert political viewpoints as an undertone to a dystopia that some think is possible. Though extremely exaggerated, the film tells us what can happen to our future if we are not careful now. The message this film sends makes it the most politically charged movie of the past decade. So, if you are in for another comic book film filled with explosions and drawn out fights, this is not your movie. If you are in for a rewarding, intellectually intriguing work of art, then enjoy what is arguably one of the best films I have seen in a while.