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V for Vendetta

Terrorist vs. Freedom Fighter? You Decide.

Imagine, if you will, a Western country ruled by a totalitarian regime whose hypocrisy is enshrouded in a faith-based rhetoric. Imagine a society is which the conversations and movements of everyday people are under surveillance. Imagine a people who have signed over their inherit rights as citizens in exchange for safety. Imagine a nation living in constant fear of a terrorist threat propagated by media outlets controlled underhandedly by the government. No, despite the similarities, it's not the year 2006. It's the futuristic, fictionalized world of Great Britain. And it is the setting for one of the year's most engaging Hollywood films thus far: V for Vendetta.

After a bio-terrorism attack leaves Great Britain in shambles, and fear forces the populace to instill a leader (played with great passion and aplomb by John Hurt) who rules with the iron fist of a zealot, a mysterious masked man (whose disguise bares a disturbingly close resemblance to the plasticized Burger King mascot) simply known as "V" (Hugo "Yes, I was both Elrond in LOTR and Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogies" Weaving) decides to take action. Dubbed as a terrorist by some and a freedom fighter by others, V plans on bringing his message of revolution to fruition a year from when he is first introduced -- November the 5th. Innocent bystander Evey (Natalie Portman) unknowingly becomes entangled in his scheme, and soon finds herself on the run from the powers that be, particularly detective Finch (Stephen Rea) who is hot on the trail of the two fugitives.

Directed by James McTeigue, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore (who wants nothing to do with this adaptation) and brought to the screen and produced by the infamous Wachowski brothers, V for Vendetta, draws parallels to a variety of films, most obviously 1984, in terms of its critique of absolute power. It possess a unique aesthetic -- updated propaganda films from the Soviet era come to mind -- as one would expect from the makers of The Matrix, and a strong, some would even say heavy-handed, political take. The film forces its audience to analyze a number of issues including the idea of terrorism, the role of government, the separation of church and state and the media.

Indeed one of the most striking elements of the film is its depiction of (secretly) state-controlled media. It is the government that decides what the people see and how they see it. The media is its means of spin control. And, with chilling effect, the audience can't help but draw comparisons to a certain cable news channel with strong ties to our own regime.

Political discourse aside, V for Vendetta is an engaging and entertaining film.
Even the side stories, though they could have easily been cut, were compelling. Stephen Fry as Evey's boss Deitrich gives a particularly standout performance. Although Portman's name, after her disastrous turn in the recent Star Wars trilogy, doesn't exactly align itself to action films, she does a good job here, and even manages to carry off a British accent. Weaving is linguistically masterful (V enjoys alliteration and Shakespeare, among other things) and creates a nuanced and sympathetic character despite the fact that his face is covered with an off-putting mask.

This would have been a five star film if not for the gratuitous love story, which I like to call the Speed effect (entirely random and inappropriate passion ignited through hardship) slapped on the end. V for Vendetta makes you think as well as lets you layback and mindlessly enjoy the show. Plus, it has a breathtaking finale for which the whole movie is worth watching. What more could you want?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars