Saturday, March 18, 2006

Voila for Vendetta

Make no mistake, V for Vendetta is a dangerous ride through the corridoors of our worst nightmare, yet laced with hope for humanity and the core values we all stand for.

One of the most anticipated movies of recent times, V for Vendetta is an engrossing entertainment and raises a question or two for viewers looking for more than just popcorn value.

As I set myself to watch the latest flick from the house of Wachowski brothers (of Matrix fame), I kept my fingers crossed. The Wachowskis, credited as writers and producers of the movie and director James McTeigue (former assistant of the Wachowskis), however, kept their reputation or whatever is left of it (after the two sequels of Matrix), intact by putting in an honest effort or for that matter what they are capable of.

Circa 2020. The world is in anarchy. America facing civil unrest while England is ruled by a brutal fascist regime.

Set in this backdrop, the movie, based on the graphic novel (of the same title) by Alan Moore (writer) and David LLoyd (illustrator), tells us the story of one masked crusader V (Guy Fawkes clone; if you are asking yourself Guy Fawkes who? please google), fighting for humanity, freedom and civil liberties in a totalitarian state of England where religious minorities, ethnic groups, homosexuals and political activists are routinely sent to concentration camps to be tortured and executed. The resemblance with Nazi Germany cannot be missed as the state media constantly churns out lies and the state police violates every corner of human dignity. The movie paints some of the darkest moments with ruthless authenticity.

The book on the other hand, written over a span of seven years (1981-1988) carries a political message aimed to criticize the then right wing Thatcher Government of England. With a seemingly obvious storyline, the strength of the book lies in its storytelling, subtle and intelligent enough to bite your conscience when it matters most. It is not your run a mill graphic novel but instead hits you hard, begs you to sit back and think... what if?

Portraying the familiar war of protagonist against a subversive regime, the Wachowskis had all the ingredients to make an impact. To be fair, they remained broadly true to the original story but sadly opted for a simplistic version to play with (Alan Moore completely disowned himself from the movie but David Lloyd did not).

One fascinating aspect of the book sorely missing from the movie is the gradual evolution of the characters and their perspectives as they fight through their jobs at hand ...be it our rebels V and his young female friend turned protagonist Evey Hammond, the good natured detectives Mr. Finch and his partner hunting for V and Evey or Mr. Creedy, an evil officer of the regime patiently biding time to stage a coup.

Good intentions notwithstanding, the movie sucks itself into a typical trap of Hollywood excessiveness often at the expense of the story. It has its share of touching moments but fails to keep a reasonable tempo throughout.

If you have read the book, you might be disappointed as the Wachowskis hardly spare any subplot, but thankfully, the finished product is still satisfying (more if you haven't read the book) and offers plenty of punch.

For one... it is pure entertainment. If you are looking for an engaging two hours of your time without yawning, this is your movie. Besides you get to hear Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and watch happy toasting of bread and fried egg.

Secondly... the movie is never short of captivating visuals with plenty of fireworks and efficiently executed action sequences. The cast by and large did a credible job. Natalie Portman is amazingly believable as Eve Hammond and Hugo Weaving as the masked crusader V is as good as you or me behind a mask (just kidding).

*********

Thirdly...

The movie is worth seeing as it eventually succeeds in delivering the message of freedom and liberty, the institutions we cherish and value and often take for granted.

In the world we live now, the movie also raises deeply troubling questions. Is the masked crusader a freedom fighter or a terrorist? Does the end always justify the means?

The movie never attempts to answer the questions nor did Mr. Moore's novel. Perhaps such questions can never be answered.

Perhaps V stands not for Vendetta but for Victory. Victory of the people, for the people and by the people.

Now if we could just stop caring how.

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