(A Movie Review)
V FOR VENDETTA (2006)
(Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt)
First, I must mention — as a point of pride — that I saw this movie on opening day, AND in Times Square, Manhattan. It was my first time to ever see a movie in New York City, and that was quite an experience.
Secondly, I’ve already seen what a few right-wing movie reviewers (like those at ChristianAnswers.net and at RightWingNews.com) have said about this movie, and I was astonished. When I saw the trailers, and even after I saw the movie, I never thought that the average American conservative would be offended or scared by this movie. Mainly, I was astonished because I too have been commonly labeled as “conservative,” or at best, “moderately conservative.”
I believe in the right of a citizen to own a handgun, and state’s rights. I believe that life begins at conception, yet that some criminals deserve the death penalty. Of course, I also believe in some “liberal” viewpoints, too.
But, my point is, the average conservative in this country should not have taken offense at this movie. Its message was not aimed at conservatives. It was aimed at those extremists who sometimes slip into government who believe that only a dominant regime without responsibility to the people can best rule a nation. It was aimed at politicians and regimes who erode the rights of the people until the populace is a body of conformist cogs, even worse than slaves. It pointed fingers at a few of today’s rulers who consistently attempt to limit the public’s access to information. It tried to raise the public’s awareness of how easily a large government could control the thought-patterns of the public and make a freedom fighter look like a bad guy.
So, in my opinion, if you were politically offended by this movie, then maybe you should re-evaluate your stance.
But, back to the movie.
The basic plot involves a young girl, Evey (Natalie Portman), who’s accidentally caught up in the investigation of a terrorist, known only as “V” (played by a masked Hugo Weaving, of Matrix fame). V turns out to be a former victim of the lying government who’s trying to right the wrongs and free the people from the iron grip of the nation’s rulers.
In the movie, which is set in Great Britain’s near future, the government is presented as a far right wing, nearly fascist regime that sets rigid curfews, imposes strict moral laws, invades the privacy of common citizens, completely controls the news outlets, searches homes without warrants, spies on citizens, etc. Most reviewers and critics have called it “an allegory for the United States,” though the government in the film more accurately resembles that of Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II. Still, some of the parallels to the U.S.’s current “Patriot Act” are chilling. In other words, it’s the type of government that no responsible citizen would accept. Only power-hungry politians would like this type of regime, and only those who were actually part of it would enjoy it.
“V for Vendetta” is, as most people know, based on the “graphic novel” (comic book) of the same name, written by Alan Moore in the early 1980s. Both the comic book and the movie show the government controlling its populace through intentional food shortages and rationing, secret police, a planned economy, and the practice of sending dissidents to special “re-education” camps. Those sent to the camps include anyone who’s racially “undesirable” or who’s not heterosexual. The government also claims to be religious in nature, as do many of these types of governments in real life.
For some reason, Christians have taken this as an assault on their faith. But only the ignorant Christians feel this way (or the ones who haven’t seen the movie). Because it doesn’t attack anyone’s faith. The film’s message only attacks those who would indiscriminantly impose their beliefs on others, by means of force.
V takes it upon himself to expose the government’s lies by temporarily taking over the main television station to get his message out. To prove he’s serious, he blows up a landmark here and there. His purpose seems to be to awake the dulled consciousness of the populace, to get them to fight for their own freedoms and rights. Of course, the strict regime labels him a “terrorist.”
Those who take offense at the depiction of this as “heroic” seem to have forgotten that our own nation and our own freedoms were bought by violence and sacrifice, and the deaths of many, in the face of a government that tried to control information and impose strict moral controls on the people. The reason that the allegory is so obvious to the current United States is that we’re slipping in that direction again, with new federal laws passed consistently that limit citizens’ choices as well as our access to public information.
In the end, V wins his war before blowing up the Parliament building, though he’d planned to destroy it all along. He does personally kill the leader of the regime, through the help of a government underling that he’s convinced to help him. However, in the end, V and his now-willing assistant Evey are unaware that the populace above-ground have marched through the lines of soldiers, and so the explosives are sent by train anyway, and the Parliament house is brilliantly and violently blown to bits.
Portman delivers a chilling performance as a young woman caught up in the struggle, who later realizes the importance and truth of it, and it is her character that actually sets the explosive-filled train in motion, after V’s tragic and martyr-like death. Weaving, though his character’s mask-hidden face isn’t seen, delivers the often complicated lines with grace and conviction. The mask, which apparently is hiding the aftermath of a government-sponsored viral experiment, serves to keep the villain/hero faceless, which serves another point: that anyone could be this guy. This guy could be anyone. The more people a government offends and injures, the more people who could possibly fall into this role.
In the end, when the populace rises to support V’s plan, they are all wearing similar masks.
Conservative reviewer Michael Karounos says one of the movie’s “fictions” is that the U.S. is an evil society. Actually, Mr. Karounos, what it’s saying is that any government could become such an evil monstrosity. Karounos is correct, though, when he says that in the U.S., the media still has freedoms to print lies about the United States government. To my knowledge, the federal government here does not yet control any media groups. However, the media is many times limited to publishing the answers and information released by the government, while the truths are often “classified” or “top secret” for generations. How many times has the American media uncovered, many years too late, some evil that the government kept hidden in the interests of “national security”?
Christians have also taken offense at the movie’s incidental reference to Islam as a religion of peace, and at least one reviewer called this a “fiction,” forgetting that the violent Islamic radicals of our day are just a fringe of that religion. Apparently, they’ve also forgotten that some of the most violent and bloody wars in the world were started and fought by so-called “Christian” nations.
It has been correctly pointed out that most, if not all, modern totalitarian regimes are either Muslim or secular, but again, the movie isn’t pointing fingers at one religion or another. It’s not attacking one government or another. The film’s message is aimed at any government, religion, or group that would set it itself up as the ruler of the people without consent of the people.
Most people, I think, found it obvious that “V for Vendetta is a political speech disguised as a movie” (Karounos again), but even as a movie, it was well done.
The script, written by Matrix trilogy writers Andy and Larry Wachowski, was filled with clever nuances, surprising turns of phrase, and it slips the message straight to the audience without taking away from the story. The characters are well-developed and well-played by the actors. The production was brilliant, the sets well-concieved. Even the soundtrack, while not too obvious, contributed to the movie’s success.
The film was rated R “for strong violence and some language.” If you can’t take just a few “bad” words, then maybe you shouldn’t see it. If you believe that the depiction of violence will harm your soul, please don’t see this movie. If you think that a scene where two women hold hands (lasting just a couple of seconds) will offend your delicate Christian sensibilities, then you’ll probably be disgusted by this movie.
But, in a day where everyone seems to be too easily offended by every little thing, I’d recommend the movie to anyone. Some people apparently are far too sensitive anymore, and should probably be shocked out of that mode at some point. I’d recommend seeing it for fun, as I did, and for the sheer quality of the movie.
Unlike The Matrix, this film isn’t mind-bending, and doesn’t present a new take on the real world. There weren’t, as far as I could tell, any new movie-making breakthroughs as we all saw in The Matrix. The world presented in V for Vendetta was much more like our own world, where large corporations and mega-governments can do what they want, without recourse.
Fortunately, in the real world of the United States, the press still does have some degree of freedom, though that’s been severely limited by recent Supreme Court rulings. Fortunately, in the actual nation where we live, the average citizen still does have the right to sue — and occasionally win against — the government. Thankfully, we still do have the right to speak out, without too much fear of physical reprisal.
But, I personally took the movie as a warning to anyone rising through the ranks of political power who’s been tempted to slight the American people. You can squeeze us and stomp on us, but if you go too far, the people will eventually rise up, even if they have to be shocked into it by a few wild-eyed radical patriots.
The really sad thing, for me, is how many people I’ve come across who — in the aftermath of seeing this movie — actually began defending the right of the government to crush its people.
(Author’s note: I’m not a political activist, by any means. I just love movies. And I love the United States of America, where I’ve lived for all but three years of my life. I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to support the government, and also to keep an eye out for abuses by that same government. We should not be ignorant sheep, led by the wolves.)