3/19/2006

V for Vendetta

Opera House gave an advanced screening of V for Vendetta Thursday Night at 10:05. It was probably the coolest thing Opera House has ever done. There was 10 people there besides Conor, Grady and I. Exiting the theatre to an empty Newport felt surreal. The film had changed the landscape somehow, and the calm coziness I feel in Newport was gone. The town seemed hostile and over-ordered. In the emptiness of the night, stop signs seemed superfluous; I could feel the romanticized anarchism growing in my gut.

V for Vendetta had enough media attention and advertising to get Hugo Waving elected President with Natalie Portman as his First Lady. With that said, the film does something that has alluding the Wachowski brothers since their 1999 smash success, live up to the hype.

In an age of reality television, TV Personality talking heads for News sources and quagmire conflict bordering on Civil War, V for Vendetta shines as an oasis of reflection and an elevation from the mundane of an American Cineplex. It is action-packed, elusive in subtleties and powerful in its allegory. Separating itself even from such direct Hollywood stabs at Washington as Good Night and Good Luck or Syriana, V for Vendetta infuses social-political concern into the fabric of a modern blockbuster. It is, if nothing else, the most thought-provoking $70 million film that has ever been produced.

But V for Vendetta, ironically, is not even much of an action film. Like the once-staple Cubrick and Bradbury-inspired works of Dystopian futurama, V for Vendetta adheres to the conventions of the sci-fi thriller. Its plot offers the complexity that ensnares an enlightened audience and allows the exploration of deep contemporary themes.

To avoid plot description, V for Vendetta is the story of revolution within the totalitarian regime of 2020 England. Rising to power within a world of chaos and confusion, England’s top-politicians offer a conservative, proto-fascist state to ease the concerns of British citizens. Media control centers the conservative party’s control mirroring an America that is all to dependent on the “liberal” media and a Russian alternative where President Putin controls all state media outlets.

V for Vendettas’ exploration of gay/lesbian themes also reflects the sentiments of a country embroiled in polarizing battle between red and blue states. Ironically, the repercussions of the Iraq war, avian flu and domestics tensions embroil Vendetta’s America into full civil war. The backdrop of the film’s action offers a rich tapestry of post-modern what-ifs in extension of today’s current contentions.

In the action, Hugo Weaving plays (or rather voices) V, a midnight vigilante and radical genius, whose meticulous planning and diabolical devotion for revenge take him against the government himself. V is the film’s icon, wearing a mask of Guy Fawkes, and a hat of Pilgrim stature. His impressive eloquence and historical allusion to the Guy Fawkes (architect of the Gunpowder Plot 1605) elevates the character above rabble vigilantes. Interrupting the rape of Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), V quotes Macbeth before manhandling his opponents in proper Neo-style (one of the few transparent influences of The Matrix on the film). The connection between V as mysterious revolutionary and Evey, as an anonymous member of the conservative state, reveals an odd dichotomy: the everyman as represented by Evey and the anyman as manifested in V expose an inherent truth in the architecture of revolution.

Portman’s acting is superb throughout the film. Her role and emotions becomes pivotal as the film remains true to its character and does not unmask V. A strong cast of British and Irish greats back-up Portman and Weaving at the top. John Hurt (Chancellor Sutler) returns to familiar ground he covered in an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984. Stephen Fry and Stephen Rea also come on board to steer the film home.

V for Vendetta’s explosion in the doldrums of a weak movie market, raise to perhaps unjust heights. Nevertheless, the film’s brilliance, vision and action make one of the finest films since The Matrix, which was released over seven years ago. Marking the anniversary of The Matrix’s runaway success those many years ago, the Wachowski’s film also coincides with another anniversary, the three year mark of the war in Iraq. While this may be sheer coincidence and the film’s capitalistic backers would unlikely reveal political undercurrents in the movie’s release, V’s own words come cryptically through. “There are no coincidences,” Argues V near the middle of the film, “Only the illusion of coincidence.”

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