Saturday, March 25, 2006

Movie / V for Vendetta

Written and produced by the Wachowski Brothers (creators of the Matrix trilogy), starring Natalie Portman (as "Evey") in her heaviest acting role to date, based on a DC Comic whose author has publicly disavowed the film (after signing away his moral rights), distributed by Warner Brothers.

An excellent piece of 5-star filmed entertainment, rated R, no sex but ample violence, murders, torture, and disturbing images, to say nothing of highly controversial political themes.

Homage or debts to prior films include Batman, Beauty and the Beast, Brazil, Broadcast News, Count of Monte Cristo, Farenheit 911, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Network, Phantom of the Opera, Sin City, and probably others I missed, plus the Osama bin Laden videos.

The story is set in a future England under right-wing relgious rule. "Strength through Unity. Unity through Faith." The dictator, name of Adam Sutler (almost rhymes with Hitler) played by John Hurt, came to power a few decades earlier during a period of social chaos induced by bio-terror. One early survivor apparently acquired super-human abilities, and has vowed to take revenge on the real perpetrators of this villany. He calls himself "V," and due to being disfigured in a fire, he is never seen without a mask (of Guy Fawkes). Somewhere along the way V must have inherited or stolen a fortune, since he can carry off complex covert operations unaided. Your classic overfunded superhero living in a lavishly furnished underground complex.

On one level it's a stock comic book revenge story, well done, but at the same time, the political oppression he's attacking is a searing commentary on current events! A government that always lies, a news media that repeats the lies, bloviating TV personalities, high level corruption, torture, pedophile priests, brutal persecution of gays. The film makes the case that these folks deserve to die at the hands of a romantic, Batman-like hero / terrorist.

The writing is solid throughout, and there is an exceptional scene in which a "Jay Leno" like character tosses his censor-approved script and broadcasts a skit lampooning the dictator, a comedic masterwork. I had some quibbles about V's bizarre treatment of Evey (in the "Spider Woman" segment) but on balance it didn't matter, so I'll leave you to figure out that one.

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