Wednesday, April 12, 2006
R for Review
Went to see V for Vendetta. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, as the ads I've seen make it seem kind of retro-futuristic, like a cross between 1984 and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. But the futurism of the movie is not aggressively pursued, with most shots appearing roughly contemporary, and it is not an exercise in style (the way Sky Captain was). The swashbuckling is much more Errol Flynn than Darth Vader. And yet it's not meant to seem quite present-day, either.
What is more striking than the era of its setting (and it has been much-discussed) is the treatment of the theme of terrorism, and who accuses whom of perpetrating it. Here we have a masked avenger who resorts to blowing up buildings in pursuit of justice against a totalitarian regime (sounding very much like the Bush administration), but he is portrayed here as the protagonist, the just man. He is called a terrorist, but the point is made that the real terror is being perpetrated by the government upon the population as a whole. Thus his use of terror is, if not lauded, held up as warranted and proper against the crushing oppression. This is a pretty ballsy tack for a movie to pursue in today's world, where a very questionable war is being waged against the amorphous enemy of "terror." Things are just flipped around a little. Or are they? While there are not likely too many people in the world who see the United States as a totalitarian regime, there are plenty who, right or wrong, see us as an aggressive power, as a nation whose policies amount to terrorism toward their countries or governments or ways of life. And within this country, we are more politically polarized than we've been during my lifetime.
So the movie provides some talking points. In our recent history I think Hitler taught us that not everything can be solved by diplomacy and negotiation, and this movie shows us a fantasy of what an effective one-man resistance to such a regime might have looked like, and what an uprising he might have inspired could accomplish. The movie's government is rotten to the core, and negotiating rights and freedoms back from their fascist clutches is just never going to happen. So what does one do? Just accept it?
With the discussion lately about our own government looking at possibly pursuing a third war, either as a legitimate foreign policy or as a cover-up for our government's near-meltdown (depending on your point of view), this all seems salient and well-timed. In the movie, justice triumphs in the end, but you're left to decide whether the ends justify the means. This doesn't, of course, mean the movie is intended to reference our current time. But the premise that through apathy and complacency we can lose control of the government that is supposed to represent us seems distinctly on point.
Oh yeah, and Natalie Portman is hot (and not just because of the cool haircut she sports for the last third of the film). Actually, it's a great cast--Stephen Rea and John Hurt are especially good--but Portman sticks out to me because she often doesn't quite convince me (though I'm trying earnestly not to hold her responsible for the diarrhea that is George Lucas's dialog writing). She does a fabulous turn here. Hugo Weaving (who I did not know by name, but I see from the photo that he played the weird cop-guy in the Matrix movies) plays the masked "V," and the business of never seeing the actor's face is disconcerting. You're left to form your opinion of the character by his words, of which there are a few too many. Words and swordplay.
Anyway, after the dust settled I found it to be quite diverting and an excellent entertainment.