Volume 18 • Issue 45 | March 24 - 30, 2006

Warner Bros.

Natalie Portman’s bold transformation in “V for Vendetta,” a politically charged film staring Hugo Weaving as the superhero V. It’s now playing at Battery Park Stadium 16.

The anti-establishment blockbuster

By Steven Snyder

Much like the Wachowski Brothers’ “Matrix” trilogy, their latest effort, “V for Vendetta” transcends that of a simple fantasy. The all-too-realistic blockbuster tells the story of a masked “terrorist” who embraces anarchy and calls for social revolt in the face of an oppressive government. Its not-so-subtle message, a provocative one for a mainstream film, is that not everyone who dissents is a terrorist, and that not every government deserves the passive obedience of its citizens. This is not timid, escapist fluff, but a proud political thriller. So political, in fact, I can’t believe any major movie studio was brave enough to back it.

Based on comic book characters created by Alan Moore (who has disassociated himself from the project) and David Lloyd, V (Hugo Weaving) is a rather unlikely superhero. He is a man of words who wears a mask due to the torture he received at the hands of his government and resorts to violence only as an extension of his ideals. The film chronicles a year in V’s life amid a futuristic, militarized Britain. From Nov. 5 to Nov. 5, he fights back against the government’s many institutions, and does his best to incite a nationwide revolt, trying to convince the masses to march on Parliament, much like Guy Fawkes did on Nov. 5, 1605, the day he was arrested beneath Parliament with a stockpile of gunpowder (a crime he was later executed for).

Director James McTeigue divides the film into a series of actions and reactions that contrast the antics of V with the paranoid response of the government. We see this through the eyes of an increasingly dismayed detective named Finch (Stephen Rea) and the people caught in the middle, from the common citizens to the raving media pundits and even Evey (Natalie Portman), who is first saved by V from being attacked on the street. She then returns the favor, even though it will endanger her life.

In not-too-subtle form, the film’s script passionately and angrily ties a web of parallels between this fictional, Orwellian world and the dramas playing out on the stage of today’s global politics. The word terrorist is uttered more than once and the plot to blow up Parliament bears an eerie similarity to the role the World Trade Center played in the plot of 9/11. In one striking scene, a television personality confesses to Evey that he must hide many of his favorite artifacts in his historical collection, including a Koran, because he would be arrested for embracing differing ideologies. In another moment, Evey is abducted and held without charge, tortured as she is instructed to tell what she knows about V.

Politics aside, this is also a film of genuine chemistry between Evey and V, who both succeed in proving that it is possible for a man in a mask to strike a chord of humanity. Unlike so many superheroes, who have two distinct and divided personalities that are never allowed to fully grow, V is made real because his character is always evolving, and his intellect fuels our intrigue. While superheroes like Batman and Superman are entertaining on a more visceral level, V is an enigmatic creation who keeps us off balance. He’s also a sign that Hollywood may be becoming the new forum for a conversation that has no other place in today’s partisan political landscape.


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