V For Vendetta

2006, Movie, R, 132 mins

Review

V FOR VENDETTA
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Brutally gorgeous and seething with incendiary images, the Wachowski brothers' monumental call to revolution, based on Alan Moore's gloomy graphic novel about a masked madman who restores anarchy to the U.K., is a vivid but muddled pulp political parable. The year is 2020, and Britain's citizens writhe beneath the boot of Big Brother-like leader Adam Sutler (John Hurt), whose party snatched power from the chaos 10 years earlier. Where once there was rioting in the streets and the ever-present threat of a man-made plague, the streets of London are quiet. The price: social conformity, constant government surveillance and swift, vicious retaliation against anyone who dares speak out against the suppression of personal freedoms. Sutler's totalitarian regime has purged England of degenerate art, immoral books and corrupting movies, scrubbed the airwaves clean of everything but censored news, smirking comedies and patriotic rants by hate-monger Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam), and gotten thugs off the street by recruiting them as government enforcers known as "Fingermen." A brutish knot of Fingermen is about to assault pretty Evey (Natalie Portman), a low-level office worker at the state-run TV service who is caught out after curfew, when they're interrupted by a black-clad phantom in a grinning mask of Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century Catholic rebel who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the hopes of destabilizing the Protestant government. Evey's rescuer, who calls himself "V," merely blows up the Statue of Justice atop the Old Bailey courthouse, watching from a nearby rooftop with Evey at his side, then hijacks the airwaves to warn that one year hence, on November 5 — the anniversary of Fawkes' gunpowder plot — he'll blow up the houses of Parliament. But V has officially been public enemy No. 1 even before Prothero is murdered and before investigation suggests that not only did V kill him but that he's the most recent in a string of victims connected to a secret internment camp called Lark Hill. And though thrown in with V by merest chance, Evey is gradually persuaded that his vision of liberating anarchy may be England's only hope. Moore had his name removed from the film's credits, but it's not a flat-out disaster like the adaptation of his LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (2003). It's just simplistic and entangled in the Wachowskis' efforts to weave together current world events and attitudes firmly rooted in English discontents of the late 1970s. Worse, reality has caught up with Moore's dark imaginings in ways large and small: The movie's opening was delayed after August 2005 terrorist attacks on London's mass-transit system, and the official story blamed the rescheduling on the filmmakers' need for more time in postproduction. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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