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03/27/2006 Archived Entry: "V for Vendetta"

V FOR VENDETTA. I finally saw it Saturday.

After the disappointment of Serenity I'd tried not to get my hopes up about this one. But the beautiful posters kept luring me. "No moviemaker who put so much craft and restraint into those posters could possibly have flubbed the film," I kept telling myself. And then there was that slogan: People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. Yeahhhhh ...

So I kept letting my hopes build up ... and up ... and up.

And you know what? V for Vendetta exceeded them. It was better than my most hopeful imaginings.

(Itty bitty teeny minor spoilers follow)

I haven't been so emotionally engaged by a freedom film since Braveheart. I haven't seen a more important freedom film since The Matrix. No. Strike that. V for Vendetta is more important than The Matrix because its message is so unabashedly here-and-now. So in-your-face. Not to mention that like The Matrix it wraps its message in one hell of an action-adventure story.

This is a movie without compromise. No words minced. No concepts softpedaled or cleverly coded. V for Vendetta overtly advocates the right, even the duty, of individuals in the twenty-first century to defend themselves violently against government tyranny. And the government in question is a recognizable near-future descendent of ones that now lie oozing and festering before our very noses.

The movie government isn't a Bush administration clone, as some conservative critics whimpered (it's British, for one thing). But it's familiar enough that the Wachowski brothers, who wrote the screenplay, are obviously warning, "Look, tyranny isn't some distant threat that happens only to foreigners. When you begin hearing words like 'rendition' or 'detention' from your own government, it's time to be very, very watchful. And very, very angry. And to act."

Since I'm late coming in, and since words would fail me anyhow, I won't attempt a real review. I'll just say if you haven't seen it yet go. Now. Experience it yourself. And I 100 percent guarantee you it'll be an experience.

It's not a perfect movie. Its imperfections mostly come from its DC Comics background. ("How can one guy with six knives best a dozen dudes with full-auto weapons trained on him?" and "Oh, c'mon, surely the security experts would have anticipated that.") But it is a great movie. Great. Exciting. Important. Heartrending. Encouraging. This is one to buy the instant it comes out on DVD. This is one of those rare, rare movies whose talk is as powerful as its action and whose action will have you cheering and weeping and clenching your fists. This is one for the freedom film pantheon.

Yeah, it's imperfect. But it soars beyond its own few flaws. It soars like its own fireworks.

One last thought. I was curious about why so many critics sniffed that this film constituted a "defense of terrorism." Having seen it, I understand where they're coming from. But V isn't a terrorist and this film isn't about terrorism at all.

V, the man in the Guy Fawkes mask (Hugo Weaving), never once attacks an innocent person. Never once targets a "civilian" building. He attacks only government agents, government spokesthings, and government facilities.

Even then (unlike baby-killer Tim McVeigh, the beasts of 9-11, or the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cartel) he does so in a way that minimizes casualties.

Since a terrorist is someone who attacks citizens in hopes of influencing governments, V is by definition not a terrorist.

Aaron Zelman had a spot-on comment about those "terrorist" critics: "Funny how no one condemning the movie is complaining about the horrors inflicted on people by the government." Yeah. Funny, that. The government kills tens of thousands and torments millions more. But V is the "terrorist" and tsk tsk how shocking it is for the Wachowskis or us to side with him.

Well, he's no terrorist. But he's also not a "good guy." It's almost funny watching the negative critics try to claim that the filmmakers want us to believe that V is a conventional (if also unconventional) hero. Egads.

V does heroic, heartbreaking, heart-lifting things -- and deeply evil ones. As the character Evey (Natalie Portman) calls him and as he himself later agrees, he's a monster. A monster created by government arrogance, savagery, and injustice.

That's also what a terrorist is. A terrorist just chooses innocent targets.

Like Frankenstein's creation, V is a more interesting character because he's both a monster and a sympathetic, heart-touching one.


P.S. If you go see the movie, stick around for the first couple of minutes of the credits. You'll be rewarded for the extra time. You might also get a laugh to discover that one of the companies involved the making V for Vendetta was Anarchos Productions. :-)

Posted by Claire @ 10:14 AM CST

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