With our super saver tickets at the ready, Common Sense Crew met up at the waco Galaxy 16 megaplex to watch V for Vendetta.
I was reticent about the movie. I have a thing against the Wachowski brothers because I did not like The Matrix trilogy. Knowing that they wrote the script for this movie and that their DoP directed it made me think that it could not possibly live up to my expectations. Those expectations were set by the word of mouth I was hearing. The reviews, however, all found flaws.
My favorite critic, Luke Y. Thompson, wasn't so happy with it since he didnt believe you could make a movie out of the very complicated graphic novel. Right of Texas liked the plot, but was disturbed by the "condoning" of homosexuality (no such problem here at this very pro-homosexual Web site).
When I finally sat down in my theater seat, I had settled on having an open mind toward they were trying to accomplish. That was easier for me to accomplish since I have never read the original graphic novel that was bought by DC Comics. I have nothing to compare it to, except other Wachowski films and other Joel Silver productions.
With that basis, this film exceeds all expectations. As my attorney Space Monkey told me while the credits rolled, "It was everything I needed it to be."
The film is set in future England, a future where the people have submitted to a fascist "High Chancellor" who promises security and stability after the world goes mad with World War. England recognizes the threat that comes from radical Muslim extremists after a terrible virus is released on a London school called St. Mary's, a tube station and water treatment facility. Some 80,000 Brits die and Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt) begins a policy of strict isolationism, letting the United States descend into total chaos which precipitates the collapse of the Western World.
In this future, we find Evey (Natalie Portman) getting ready while listening to the Voice of London, Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam), pontificating about how much better England is than the United States. Very much a British Bill O'Reilly with super overtones of nationalism. Evey is set to break curfew and visit a male friend and co-worker when she is stopped in the streets by the secret police, referred to as The Finger. She is about to be raped when V (Hugo Weaving) steps in and beats down the three men.
After delivering a very long monologue using almost exclusively v-words as only Hugo Weaving can and explaining how odd it is that she should ask who he was though he is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, he takes her to a rooftop to watch him conduct an orchestra.
That's when the action really kicks in at the stroke of midnight on November 5th, the state-run emergency speaker system begins blasting the 1812 Overture as explosives and fireworks level the Old Bailey, a symbol of government power in London for hundreds of years.
The regular police force, including Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) begin looking for this masked man and woman caught on surveilance cameras, which leads them to Evey at her job as an assistant at the state-run BTN television station. A mysterious package arrives before they do, filled with Guy Fawkes masks. V then appears, taking over a studio and forcing the state-run television station, which is broadcast onto every single TV in England, to play his pre-recorded message. In it, he invites every person in England to join him one year from then, on the 5th of November, in front of Parliament where he will then blow it up and thereby take down the fascist government.
V is almost caught in his escape, only to be helped by Evey, who is knocked unconscious in the endeavour.
She is carried to V's secret layer, filled with contraband like a Wurlitzer jukebox and great works of art.
This is where things start to take their turn from the mundane, big-budget Hollywood movie and become more complicated. Evey recognizes that England is not the place she wants it be, but is too afraid to do anything to change it. That's why when V asks her to help him assassinate a bishop in the Church of England, she betrays him and runs away.
As Inspector Finch continues his investigation into why V is killing certain party members and who he might be, Evey runs to a the man she originally intended to meet, her former boss and television show host named Dietrich. Dietrich, too, has a secret room filed with contraband. Things like a 14th Century version of the Koran, some critical works of art. Here the Wachowskis manage to inject some jabs at the current administration. Though the story was originally about Margaret Thatcher's right-wing government in the 1980s, a flag reading Coalition of the Willing over a swastika and a portrait of Hitler in drag that looks very similar to some works of art that were shown in Chicago comparing George W. Bush to Hitler make this a little more updated and relevant to American audiences.
Dietrich is eventually taken away for a skit about the Chancellor on his television show that reminds Evey of the way her parents were taken from her. She is also kidnapped, has her head shaved and is tortured to reveal V's whereabouts.
I'm going to stop there before I reveal the entire plot of the movie to you to offer some commentary.
V is an enigmatic character to some degree. He is obviously pushing for an extreme of his own, an anarchists wet dream of total chaos to bring down the fascist, theocratic authoritarian regime of Chancellor Sutler. At the end, though, he recognizes this and decides that neither he, nor the Chancellor should live beyond the day of his revolution so that new people can build their own new world.
But his motives aren't always clear. He wants to create a new world for England free from the control of Sutler's government, but is this all about simple revenge for what was done to him? The people he assassinates are directly responsible for his circumstances, they also happen to be major players in the party and in Sutler's rise to power.
Is he a terrorist just acting out his own personal vendetta, or is he a freedom fighter liberating his countrymen? Ronald Reagan once famously referred to Nicaraguan death squads as freedom fighters, and today's president refers to insurgents fighting to rid Iraq of American occupying forces as terrorists. So maybe the line isn't all that clear to anyone.
The one thing I'm not really surprised about is that a movie was finally made about Guy Fawkes Day. We were starting to run out of major holidays, so it was only a matter of time before we got to this one. Up next is a movie about Administrative Assistants Day, where a crazed secretary goes on the rampage in her office, leaving dead co-workers in their cubicles, but the rest of the lemmings doing filing tasks oblivious. Have you ever seen anyone Xeroxed to death? (Ed. note: If any Hollywood producers make a movie out of that, I had damn well better get producer credits and story by acknowledgement or I'll sue. Also, I want one of those production jacket things.)
The movie does seem to glorify violence, though, which I do have a problem with. Violent terrorism, as a whole, is both unjustified and terribly ineffective. But, if you're one guy in a mask and you're trying to overthrow the government, letters-to-the-editor probably won't cut it as well as high explosives.
In the end, V does not live to see his revolution happen. His work is left to people like Evey and everyone who becomes inspired by his message of change and personal freedom. We're left with Evey's words that V wasn't just a man, he was everyone and an idea all rolled into one. That is why he succeeded in creating change and why he would not be forgotten.
Common Sense gives it 4 out of 5 starfish. Go watch this movie instead of that total fake and complete asshole "Larry the Cable Guy." You'll thank me later.