Wednesday, March 15, 2006

V FOR VENDETTA: Provocative Effort by Wachowskis

(futuristic thriller)
Time: 130 mins
Rating: * * 1/2
Natalie Portman & Hugo Weaving
FROM the Brothers Wachowski, we get another ‘out-of- this-world’ fantasy about an alternate, Orwellian England. Unlike The Matrix trilogy, however, this one is rather provocative as its hero is a ‘home-grown’ terrorist in a Guy Fawkes mask who wants to blow up Parliament and the Prime Minister’s residence.

If this sounds familiar, it is because V For Vendetta is based on the comic book by writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd which was originally serialised in the British magazine Warrior. It was later republished and completed in DC Comics in 1988/89. The story, set in a ‘futuristic’ fascist England, is in reaction to the policies of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

For the movie, however, scripters Andy and Larry Wachowski have set the period as 2020 and installed their Matrix protege James McTeigue as director. When the movie opens, America has collapsed under the strain of terror, plague and civil war — and England is ruled by dictator Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt). Art, books and all forms of entertainment are banned and the nation is kept in a state of crisis and under strict curfew.

We follow the exploits of Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) who accidentally becomes involved with a rebel known only as V (Hugo Weaving in the mask) when he rescues her from two menacing government lackeys. V has a flair for the theatrical and he introduces himself to London on Guy Fawkes Day (Nov 5) with a symbolic bombing and then hijacks a TV station to announce his ‘revolution’. When Evey is taken into V’s abode, she becomes our proxy to V’s designs, and we begin to sympathise with her just as she is being seduced by V’s ideology. The ‘crunch’ comes when she is ‘captured’, shaven bald, and ‘imprisoned’.

This transformation is supposed to turn Evey into V’s ally but the Wachowskis seem to take the easy way out with the ‘conversion’ of the Londoners. Instead of having V indoctrinating the people to revolt (as in the comic book), they have him sending out his mask and costumes to the people!However, the subplots about the hunt for the terrorist by Sutler’s minions help to put the totalitarian state into perspective. Stephen Fry and Stephen Rea give sterling performances as investigators who unveil V’s background.

Portman carries herself well too, getting our sympathy as the vulnerable Evey, while Weaving has a hard time displaying emotions from behind the mask (Still, he manages to get the message across). This movie, which was scheduled for release last November, was ‘hijacked’ by events when London was hit by terrorist bombs in July last year.


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