Ahhh the two dollar theater. What a marvelous invention. God knows I was mad that I missed She's the Man in the theaters. I will not even mention the all time winner for two dollar theater movies, Cabin Boy. But hey, two bucks for a couple hours worth of entertainment? Pretty good deal ya know?
Especially when the source of that entertainment is V For Vendetta. Damien and Carly opined a good line about the film which was "loved the movie, hated the discussions that followed it". I do think avowedly political films can spark some of the worst conversations. Witness for example The New York Post's comically bad review of An Inconvenient Truth, which had no issue with running the worst set of arguments I had ever seen against Al Gore at both a political and personal level.
But this film is marvelous. Really excellent. I did not go in expecting more than a pretty solid movie, and came out blown away. The story is set in futuristic London, ruled by a fascist (played with much vigor by John Hurt). The city has curfews, and a news organization that is played like a puppet by the government (complete with a character meant to obviously imitate the worst of Fox News's talking heads). At the center of the story is Evey, played by Natalie Portman. At the beginning of the movie she is saved from some governmental agents by V, who wears a Guy Fawkes mask (and acted quite well behind this mask for the entire film by Hugo Weaving, of 'Mr. Andeeeeeeeeeeeerson' fame).
The movie opens with a dramatization of Guy Fawkes failed plot to blow up Parliament several hundred years ago. This fades out into Evey's salvation at the hands of V. V then takes Evey to where she can observe the destruction of the Old Bailey by a series of explosions. After releasing Evey, V engineers another disruptive act at the state news service where Evey works, during the course of which he proclaims that in a year he will blow up Parliament. He also absconds with Evie, taking him to his lair (The VCave). Here they have a number of discussions, and Evey is horrified at V's willingness to take life in the name of freedom.
From here on the movie becomes focused on the police's pursuit of V, the backstory of V and Evey, and the increasing viciousness of the regime. I will say no more about the plot except that the movie has chosen a very proper setting for making us very sympathetic with V's behavior.
Technically, this is excellent filmmaking. With the involvement of the Wachowski brothers, we knew that the action sequences and explosions would be very well executed. These do not disappoint. All the actors and actresses involved are quite competent, especially Stephen Rea as the chief governmental investigator who is unravelling both the mystery of V and the nefarious behavior of his own government. Portman is also given a real chance to shine in the second half of the film, and does not dissappoint. (Her performance is not like sand, which is rough. It is like the water, which is smooth and cool to the touch.)
Politically, the film sparks some discussion no doubt. V deals in absolute truths. His experiences throughout the movie and his political conversations with Evey do not wean him off of this perspective. He is willing to do pretty much anything to fight what he perceives as governmental injustice. Well, dealing in absolutes is exactly what the government does. Yet V is sympathetic, the movie is effective at rallying our support for his terroristic acts, and I found myself cheering for his success in blowing up Parliament (I know, I hate freedom). The message can be any number of things. That politics is a dirty business and so we must get dirty too. Or that sometimes there is right and wrong and you damn well better be fighting for right.
Inspired filmmaking. It made me want to go free some people from Guantanamo who are faceless and nameless, and speak their story. Not because I think it speaks so appropriately to our current political circumstances, but because I find its claim thats "ideas have power, ideas do not die" to be such an important sentiment and one that is timless because ideas do not only exist in a moment in time, but become summoned effectively by mental markers. Guy Fawkes=American Revolution=Warsaw Resistance=Choose your own political adventure may seem like a great jump, but "People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people" is as telling and crucial an idea not just in this era of neoconservative imperial governance, but one which was crucial to throwing off the shackles of colonialism in India or mainstreaming civil rights in America.
An excellent film, even though critics who say it glorifies terrorism have a point.