I wasn’t eager to see “V for Vendetta,” but someone who calls his blog the Tory Anarchist can hardly fail to go see the movie that has the Wall Street Journal talking about anarchism. A similar sense of duty — I wanted to popularize Richard Weaver’s idea of the Great Stereopticon by tying it in with the “Matrix” movies — had led me to see two of the Wachowskis’ last three movies, some four hours or so of my life that I will never get back.
Glamourized sadism is an apt description of the Wachowkis’ last few flicks, and that’s what I expected from “V” as well. (Even though they were only adapting the script from Alan Moore’s comic book.) But I was pleasantly surprised. There’s nothing profound about “V,” but the characters have at least half a dimension more than those of the average Hollywood blockbuster. The same can be said, more mutedly, about the film’s social commentary — it’s very heavy-handed in places, but as a middlebrow political thriller it’s better than most.
Hugo Weaving, behind a Guy Fawkes mask throughout, manages to make the title character believable within the framework of the story; he’s not Batman. Stephen Rea, as the basically decent investigator Finch trying to catch the terrorist, comes off plausibly as well. Natalie Portman’s thespian abilities I’ve always had some doubts about (I’m thinking “Closer” as much as “Star Wars”), and her turn as V’s accomplice Evey doesn’t go far toward dispelling them, but here at least she doesn’t draw attention to her limited range. The most convincing character of all is Prothero (played by Roger Allam), a sort of British Bill O’Reilly on steroids — perhaps literally.
Leon Hadar discusses the political context of the film (and reviewers’ reactions) and quotes this spot-on remark from The Economist:
as for the dystopian fable, only fans of detention centres, torture, unfettered government surveillance, screaming-mad television pundits and laws against alternative lifestyles will find anything here that could possibly offend.
Liberals, except the doubly odious “responsible” kind, will like the film because it’s politically correct: the evil government is right-wing and vaguely Christian, its victims seem to be mostly homosexuals. Jeffersonians will like it simply because there’s a little rebellion here. Bush loyalists will hate it for the idea that anti-terrorism and good old fashioned law-and-order can ever go too far. But of course, they can, and readily do, which is one reason “V for Vendetta,” for all its oversimplifications, is a timely movie. It’s also well made, and should entertain even unsympathetic viewers who don’t get too hung up on its exaggerations.
Edit: I should have credited the comic book to both Alan Moore and David Lloyd, especially since artist Lloyd apparently came up with the Guy Fawkes motif.