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March 21, 2006 > V For Vendetta

V For Vendetta

by Jeremy Inman

"Blowing up a building can change the world," says the terrorist behind his smiling, wooden mask.

Outwardly we gasp. Did he just say that? But inwardly, we gradually start to cheer for this masked "villain," the product of a ruthless totalitarian regime. After all, perspective is everything; and as the saying goes: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

V for Vendetta examines this duality as it explores a futuristic, post-World War III totalitarian London, as well as the role of government in creating its own terrorists.

Originally conceived by legendary comic book author Alan Moore in 1988 for his series of the same name, V chronicles the escapades of a solitary dissenter in the face of an overwhelming fascist empire. The terrorist, codenamed V, has a penchant for blowing up important government facilities in the name of freedom and justice - and in grand style. Though he may occasionally gallivant around with sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest, V is no ordinary terrorist. Somewhere along his development, he picked up an appreciation for the theatrical; he quotes Macbeth while saving a young girl from harmful government enforcers and blows up the London Bailey to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth (Roman numeral V, get it?) while launching fireworks in the shape a gigantic V.

V presents an interesting dichotomy. While often loveable, easy to cheer for, and downright romantic, he's also a homicidal lunatic, a kidnapper, and an arsonist. His favorite film is the original Count of Monte Cristo and he grows roses in his hideout. He also knows how to make high-powered explosives and lethal poisons out of homemade materials which he then uses to destroy important facilities and assassinate high-standing party members. He is, however, the obvious lesser of two evils, perhaps forced to give up certain purities for the greater good, purities like not having killed a man. After all, the movie's not called Vendetta for nothing; and V's got a mean one, with good reason. I won't spoil it here, but I will say that it unfolds as beautifully as one of V's own roses.

It's not surprising that this story about freedom and power would be adapted for the big screen by Matrix scribes Andy and Larry Wachowski. Long-time comic fans (who would, by extension, be familiar with the work of Moore), the Brothers Wachowski proved to be well-suited to the subject at hand, remaining true to the spirit of the original story while updating it for a modern audience. Andy and Larry took a step back and opted to write and produce the film, but not direct it. Instead, they left the reigns to protˇgˇ James McTeigue, first assistant director on all three Matrix films.

While V for Vendetta might be billed as an action flick, like The Matrix, it's far from it. Instead, it makes you think, question its motives as well as your own, and provides great entertainment. Top notch performances are delivered from all players, especially Natalie Portman as Evey, V's adopted accomplice and Hugo Weaving as the man in the mask, V himself. Interestingly, the mask is never removed, and the audience is not allowed a glimpse of the man behind it all.

If it were revealed, he would become a mere man, and cease to be a freedom fighter, an idea. "And ideas," says V, "are bulletproof."

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