My DD214

Veterans should be a thing of the past.

Movie Review: V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta most likely won’t set the box office world on fire, but it might make it OK to cheer for terrorists again.

September 11th made terrorism the exclusive domain of Islamist murderers, the sinister “other” that the American government had been searching for since the fall of the Soviet Union. After the Berlin Wall fell, the US was a ship adrift. As a nation we had become so used to defining ourselves as the opposition to the Soviets that when they collapsed, a part of our identity went with it. September 11th was a new touchstone, a chance to reframe the world into the binary black-and-white existence that we are most comfortable with.

Since terrorism was the domain of our new arch-nemeses, terrorists whom Americans had embraced in the past started to lose cachet. The IRA was forced out of business. Greenpeace got decidedly more pleasant to be around, although they still eschewed deodorant for the most part.

But four years have passed since September 11th, and Hollywood has decided that a film with a hero employing terrorism as his modus operandi is a reasonable risk. And I think I agree. The important hedge here is that the terrorism in the film is terrorism only in a very limited sense; terror attacks like September 11th, the London tube bombings, the murder of abortion clinic doctors, and the firebombing of Tokyo in World War II are aimed at and designed to create fear in the minds of civilians. The terrorism in V for Vendetta is designed to inspire civilians and to make the government afraid, an altogether different proposition.
All of that aside, V for Vendetta is a pretty good movie. It is far from superb, and I’m somewhat disappointed by that. It’s a long film that never becomes so gripping that you forget the running time. The main characters are compelling and well fleshed out, but the plot moves along so leisurely that the dramatic climax is neither dramatic nor a climax.
The setting of the film is a dystopian future Britain, ruled by a theocratic ruler (John Hurt) who videoconferences with his subordinates from a secure location. Islam, homosexuality and any art deemed “subversive” are forbidden. Curfews are in effect, all communications (and even private home conversations) are surveilled and the state controls the media. From this rises the verbose and not-altogether-sane V, a hero in a Guy Fawkes mask (played by Hugo Weaving, Mr. Smith of the Matrix films) who gleefully blows up government buildings and assassinates bureaucrats. Evey is a gopher at the television network (played capably enough by Natalie Portman) who becomes inextricably involved in V’s plots. Finch (Stephen Rea) is the melancholy chief police inspector whose flagging faith in the government complicates his task of uncovering V’s identity.

The script features some very enjoyable dialogue, although it does show its combined comic book and Wachowski brothers pedigree and sometimes goes over the top a bit. There are a couple of cringe-inducing appearances of cliched verbal sawhorses (“Why won’t you die?”), but there’s clever exchanges between V and Evey that make those worthwhile. Along with the aforementioned pacing issues, the film also suffers from a lack of focus. Much of the film’s time is devoted to Finch’s hunt for V, but the filmmakers spend much of that reiterating the same business and not giving the audience enough credit for intelligence. The time could have been better spent on emphasizing the moral ambiguity of the hero. V’s actions throughout the course of the movie are ethically dubious at best, but the relevant characters don’t really dwell on that. V also does quite a bit of vague moralizing about how bad the fascists are and how good freedom is, but the oppressive government is painted as so blantantly evil that this is all truism.

The single most salient quality of the film is that it is (intentionally or not) positioned perfectly to tweak the Bush administration and its authoritarian leanings. As a result, many liberals in the media and on the internet are sure to proclaim it as the best film of the year, and their counterparts on the right will decry it as garbage without seeing it. But V deserves neither extreme of hyperbole. It’s kind of fun, and V is the most compelling terrorist since Braveheart, but it’s not liable to start any revolutions.

Previously: S for Subversive

18 March, 2006 3:33 PM - Posted by | Movie reviews

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: