‘Vendetta’ too good to be bad

Reeling it in

Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2006


  "V for Vendetta" Warner Bros. Pictures 2 hours, 12 minutes AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures/D

"V for Vendetta"

Warner Bros. Pictures

2 hours, 12 minutes

AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures/D

I have to be honest here. “V for Vendetta” looks like a movie tailor-made for me. Lots of action, lots of cool effects, from a comic book, but with a serious subject. It’s from author Alan Moore, who wrote the groundbreaking graphic novels, “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “From Hell,” and “Watchmen.” I should have been pumped to see this film. Instead, and I hate to admit this, I was really scared. Of the mask. Which looks really silly in the ads. All I can say is, whew!

“V for Vendetta” is a powerful and entertaining film, filled with amazing imagery, cinematography, acting and sharp writing. Set in the near future, “V” takes place in a world both unfamiliar and terrifyingly suggestive of our own. Decades filled with questionable wars, avian flu, mad cow disease, terrorism and a gradually sliding morality has plunged the planet, and Great Britain in particular, into chaos.

The cure comes in the form of a powerfully charismatic politician who fashions a new, totalitarian society on the ashes of the old, bringing back stability, but at what cost?

Enter V.

Nameless, faceless and without a past beyond the ravages of the new government, V styles himself after the infamous British revolutionary Guy Fawkes who, along with his conspirators, attempted to blow up Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605. That silly-looking mask, which I mentioned earlier, is actually a representation of Fawkes, and is probably recognizable to anyone on the British Isles.

V is angry, and after his shadowy and vague, yet ultimately destructive treatment at the hands of state, it’s not hard to wonder why. What he doesn’t plan on is the rescuing of Evey, Natalie Portman, who finally has a character with something to do. V takes Evey under his wing, and eventually into his secret lair. Is he in love, or is he recruiting another fanatic to join his cause? Hmmm ... only time will tell.

Back in their war room, the brutal regime is having a fit over their nemesis, this “terrorist.” They will stop at nothing to bring him to justice, but it’s just an occasion such as this that makes otherwise loyal party members begin to question whose side they’re really on.

The acting in this film is top-notch. Frightening and huge, John Hurt towers like a giant over his subordinates as the Orwellian Prime Minister. Though mostly seen as a screen image, Hurt succeeds in turning in a subtle performance disguised as scenery-chewing cameo. Stephen Rea, veteran Irish actor, plays the subtlety without the bluster as a conflicted cop on the hunt for the killer. Hugo Weaving, best known as Agent Smith and Elrond, does a good job with V, despite being completely covered for the entire production. It’s a bold career move for this up and coming movie star, considering very few people will even know he’s in the movie.

Natalie Portman also does well, though all people seem to want to talk about is the fact that she shaves her head. That’s not acting, it’s a haircut. Her strength really lies in that she plays us, the audience, in the film, as she wavers between horror and sympathy at V’s explosive exploits.

Where this film stumbles for me is in none of the technical details, nor in the surface writing; the dialogue, the storyline, etc. It is a bold choice of film to play in the world we live in, and I respect that. A sympathetic terrorist who blows up British landmarks is not what we expect of our heroes. But then again, people are starting to question the motives of our governments, so it’s not hard to see the leap from 2006 to “1984.”

Unfortunately, “V” refuses to make clear its point. At times the film seems fervently anti-government and sympathetic to the idea of violent revolution. At other times, it turns on its terrorist hero, making him the bad guy. This is not necessarily a problem, simply the creation of a multifaceted character. But the film never really makes a final determination one way or another, preferring to ride the fence instead. Is vengeance good? No. Yes. Well, sometimes.

That we should rise up is clear, but is violence the answer? Maaaybe ... . It sure looks good. And in the end, that seems to be the ultimate goal. “V” gives us lots to watch, lots to ponder and lots to talk about, but never really takes a stand on anything beyond the innate coolness of a guy in a mask taking out the bad guys with knives and bombs. “V” is for very good, but vexing nonetheless. Grade: A-

“V for Vendetta” is rated R for violence and language.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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