March 24, 2006

V for Vendetta: Guys Movie Night

vendettaA dark and compelling dystopian thriller, light on the thrills and heavy on the dystopia. I have read the Orwellian graphic novel on which the movie is based. It would have been very easy to dial down the despair and oppression and crank up the fight sequences, perhaps even add a car chase or two? What's the difference, right? Well, first-time director James McTeigue (an assistant director of all three Matrix movies, and Star Wars Episode I: Attack of The Clones, too) takes the road less traveled. There are a few scenes where the antihero/protagonist V (Hugo Weaving) kicks ass, including an overly-bloody knife fight at the very end of the movie, but for long stretches of this 132 minute movie, V does nothing more than saunter around his underground lair (picture the Batcave redone as a Gothic pop culture museum) spouting anarchist propaganda.

In the not-too-distant-future, a fascist religious zealot (John Hurt, who played Winston Smith in 1984) has been elected PM and assumed the title Chancellor of Great Britain, all by eliciting the Terror Vote. In the name of national security, civil liberties have been revoked and the populace have been brainwashed by the government-controlled media. This wouldn't be so terrible, but all gays, blacks, Muslims, and insurgents have been interred in concentration camps. In one of these camps, in the course of unforgivable medical experiments, the government has created the crucible of their own destruction.

V wears a Guy Fawkes costume, not just to hide his horribly burned body (which we never see) but because, like Batman, he is not a man but an idea, and "ideas are bulletproof". V finds an unlikely ally in petite Evey (Natalie Portman), who grew up in a socialist household, who has lost everyone she ever loved to a concentration camp. Imagine her performance as Anne Frank, except Evey slips away from the jackbooted thugs and fights back.

V for Vendetta stirred up a healthy debate amongst the Guys of Guys Movie Night: What's the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? The movie made its points well, if occasionally rough around the edges for a first-time director. Natalie Portman was excellent in a very strong role- if only Queen Amidala showed some of this passion! Hugo Weaving spoke well through his mask and his body acting was evocative. Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and John Hurt were all excellent. (AMC Burlington)