- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

Certain action movies work better when we shut off our brains to better appreciate the fireworks. “V for Vendetta” demands we shelve any sophisticated notions about the intersection between politics and terrorism.

The film, based on renowned comic book writer Alan Moore’s graphic novel, envisions a future society that resembles Nazi Germany while tossing brickbats at the current White House occupants.

The original text was a nightmarish caricature of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain (which still hadn’t descended into “V’s” feared theocracy last time we checked). Now, it’s reconfigured by brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski (“The Matrix”) to flow with present-day Bush bashers.

Ignore if you can “Vendetta’s” puerile political overlay, and savor it instead as pure entertainment. It’s smart, crisply acted and features strikingly original storytelling. Few films leverage flashbacks to such dizzying effect, and a game Natalie Portman proves she can carry a film on her girlish shoulders.

It’s the year 2020, and Great Britain is ruled by the Chancellor (John Hurt), an overlord who ensures the public’s safety via Draconian curfews and other police-state favorites.

The U.S. is no longer a superpower thanks to an unnamed, protracted war that the government blames on what it terms the country’s “godless behavior.”

A young TV station drone named Evey (Miss Portman) is accosted by some government thugs one day, but is saved by a masked man named V (Hugo Weaving, an impish delight despite the mask’s limitations).

Those are V’s bombs that raze a church tower moments later, an act the government quickly spins as a “planned demolition.”

Evey and V seem destined to be together. They meet again when V assaults the government-controlled television station where she works, and he whisks her back to his lair to protect her from the Chancellor’s minions.

She’s initially appalled at V’s handiwork, but he soon wins her over by quoting Shakespeare and making a mean omelette. It helps that Evey’s parents were political radicals who disappeared shortly after the Chancellor took power.

V’s work is far from over. He’s plotting a bigger strike, an attack on the Parliament building meant to bring the fascist state to its knees.

We’re left to wonder if Evey will help V carry out the attack, and also whether a dogged police inspector (Stephen Rea) will uncover the truth behind his government’s policies in time.

It takes nerve to include lines like “Blowing up a building can change the world” in a feature film these days, but wouldn’t it be bolder to call out the Islamic extremists whose ideals truly portend the kind of totalitarian state depicted here?

While the Wachowskis take direct aim at Christianity by means of the government’s theological dogma and a clumsy pedophile subplot, they take pains to honor Islam by making a benevolent character revere the Koran.

Only a fevered leftism could directly connect a dystopia where homosexuals are killed and art is censored to Bush, not Osama and company.

In the end, “Vendetta” blunts fears about romanticizing terrorism by making V a kinder, gentler terrorist: He doesn’t target civilians, just government types. Sure, he’s flawed to the point of megalomania, but “Vendetta” leaves little doubt as to where the filmmakers’ rooting interest lies.

As escapism, “V for Vendetta” is a comic book yarn in the best sense of the word — bold, fresh and compelling.

Too bad its politics are as one-dimensional as a comic book page.


TITLE: “V for Vendetta”

RATING: R (Violent sword fights, gore and adult language)

CREDITS: Directed by James McTeigue. Written by Andy and Larry Wachowski based on the graphic novel written by Alan Moore.

RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes

WEB SITE: https://vforvendetta.



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