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April 24, 2006 | by  | in Film |
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V for Vendetta

Totalitarian

Britain versus

a Shakespeare-quoting, Guy Fawkes-masked, knife-toting insurgent with a vendetta (Hugo Weaving). Natalie Portman trying on a few different accents as Evey, an office prole coming to political awareness in a fascist society cleansed of ‘undesirables’. There are some quality turns from respected British actors, as a late night talk show host Stephen Fry gets the best scene of the movie. There’s a lot of talking about some really obviously bad things and eventually some bullet-time knife-porn and a bloody big explosion. It’s Michael Moore meets the Matrix.

It has already been criticised for being ‘gleefully anarchic’ and ‘irresponsible’ for acknowledging that violence is a mechanism for change without Hollywood’s standard sugar coating of Saturday-morning-cartoon moralising. However, V for Vendetta’s true fault lies in attempting to explore the complex issues of a gradual descent into fascism along with the causes and justifications for terrorism with unsubtle 1984 ft. high brushstrokes. Preaching to the converted, it fails to offer a convincing dystopia or realistic motivations for the actions of anyone other than V and Evey, who are even further simplified with an unnecessary love plot.

The most conflicted parts of this film are the only ones that truly manage to challenge the audience. By muddying the waters around the morality of his characters’ actions, and offering a more balanced view point in Stephen Rea‘s Inspector Finch, McTeigue provokes more thought than showing us Nazi villains and making lengthy speeches. Less naïve than its source comic, the ambiguous finale (while sandwiched between a sappy Portman eulogy and the Rolling Stones cringe worthy ‘Street Fighting Man’ over the credits) offers no happy resolution or easy answers, the future of the people lies in their own hands. Sadly, this is probably unintentional, a consequence of stripping the original anarchist ideals from the comic. When asked about adaptations ‘ruining his books’ author Alan Moore recalled Raymond Chandler’s response to the same question when he “took them into his study and pointed up to the shelf where they all were, and he said, ‘Look, they’re there. They’re fine. They’re okay.’ That’s the attitude I have to take. The film hasn’t ruined my book.”

An aptly confused allegory for confusing times, V for Vendetta is at turns moving and clumsy. But what it lacks in political clout it makes up for in bomb-tastic revolutionary fun. It will resonate with many, though I doubt it will sway any neo-con mindsets and will most likely be forgotten far too quickly.

Directed by James McTeigue
Hoyts, Reading Cinemas

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