The Rookie Reviews: "V for Vendetta"

Please Note: This review deals mostly with the wider themes and Christian response to the movie "V for Vendetta." In writing it I will try my best to avoid plot spoilers for those readers who haven't yet seen it.

"I am not questioning your powers of observation; I only point out the paradox of asking a masked man who he is."

In the future, England is controlled, 1984-style, by a zealous dictator who rules in the name of morality, faith and the ploughman's lunch, or something equally traditional. Unfortunately, his drive for "unity" (aka sameness) has brought about a world where speech, movement and curiosity carry huge price tags with them.

Enter a hero, code-named V, who begins a campaign, backed by the 1812 Overture, to force change in the English government. His costume and motive are based on Guy Fawkes, who attempted to destroy Parliament with barrels of gunpowder; and parallel to the Count of Monte Cristo, the Matrix and, maybe, just maybe, "Ocean's Eleven."

As in all the revenge movies, the bad guys are thoroughly corrupt, the police are basically incompetent, a beautiful woman both helps and falls in love with our hero, and the whole thing is televised.

Is it truly a spoiler with this kind of movie to hint that the hero has some degree of success?

It's worth seeing. "V for Vendetta" is a smart movie; while it uses them to fill in spots where they advance the plot, the whole story doesn't rest on gore and fight effects. While the background of the story is often murky, even toward the end when things should be wrapping up, there are a lot of good questions on the surface.
What would you have to go through before you really could die for your beliefs? for example.

What struck me while I watched "V for Vendetta" was that every character had a secret. More than anything else, these secrets were what brought the characters and the whole system down. The government was afraid of the secrets kept by its people, so constantly worked to root them out. The leaders all had their own secrets, though, and the vengeance wrought by V was aimed at punishing them for those secrets, and for the effect the secrets had on the way those characters lived.

I would love to say this movie has strong Christian overtones and could be used to talk about things like redemption and accountability, but without a lot of digging, it doesn't work. Jesus told us that he came into the world to bring to the light all the things people did in darkness, to show people as they really are. While I'd like to use that verse as a parallel, V's mission didn't bring anyone's secrets into light for the people in the movie, just the audience and a few select characters who knew them anyway. Evil was challenged, but no one was really redeemed.

The movie serves most as a call for transparency; it shows, the way "watch out for your government" movies always have, the danger of not revealing one's true motives, using our words to make evil look like the best interest of the people, and hints that often it's hard to know what we are truly capable of until we're tested.

Going into the film, it will help to have a fairly high vocabulary. The R rating is deserved; what gore there is becomes extremely graphic. There's no sex, only mild language, and the thing most likely to cause bad dreams is the oversize screen the high chancellor uses to talk to his security council. My dad would say of the character, "He can't help that he's ugly, but he could stay home!"

"V for Vendetta" opened March 17th and is currently playing. My apologies for the lateness of this review; for some reason it was extremely difficult to write.


Anonymous said...

I think it's significant that both V and the government mask things--you get at this with the bit about everyone having secrets, but I think that the masks/de-facing of people is an especially significant point.

My biggest issue with the movie is that it tries to have its cake and eat it too: V confesses that he is wrong, yet the glorious revolution goes on. thoughts?

Isaac, The Rookie said...

I was touching on that when I mentioned that no one was really redeemed; either the government's drive to keep unity or V's mission to free people's minds.

This review was really hard to write for some reason; I think a few points I wanted to make, or that deserved more attention, got lost in the shuffle there. Apologies.