I Promise You Won't Learn A Thing From This Blog

The official blog for author Ashley Chappell. Check back every week for a few laughs at my expense or, if you know the love-hate process that is writing, commiseration.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

REVIEW: "V for Vendetta"

I LOVE movies. Anybody who knows me can tell you that I narrate my life cinematically. But even with as much as I rave about the ones I love and those that intrigued me I don't usually engage in writing a movie review. However, I think I'm going to have to finally make an exception and show my true appreciation for the Wachowski brothers.

I watched "V for Vendetta" for possibly the 6th or 7th time and I am still amazed that I find new subtleties that give me an increased appreciation with each viewing. This movie combined a phenomenal screen writing team that was perfectly devoted to detail with a cast that superbly defined the characters they assumed. I have never seen Natalie Portman give a better performance, and Hugo Weaving What more can I say? He's Hugo Weaving! His eloquent voice is so colorful and expressive that he gives his masked character a face you can hear and feel. It would be easy to imagine him in an Elizabethan theater delivering a brand new Shakespearean monologue.

- - - - - Beware: Spoilers ahead! - - - - -

Hugo Weaving plays V, a vigilante who has been irreversibly affected by his government in the course of a medical experiment in the height of war. A new government was rising to power which mimicked Orwell's Oceania in 1984. The Chancellor had commissioned a "Black List" of items in art, music, literature, etc that would have been considered unchristian or subversive similar to Hitler's actions in Nazi controlled Germany. They also controlled the flow of information to the citizens entirely and ensured that the news reported served their purpose only, without regard to accuracy. Just as with Orwell's Ministry of Truth the government realized that propaganda was a means to controlling the population. When a brave few did speak out, however, a darker organization run by Creedy, the Chancellor's right hand muscle, would abduct, torture, and kill those responsible.

Natalie Portman plays Evey Hammond, the femme counterpart to V, who has also been irreparably scarred by the government's actions. Her entire family had been killed and she lived in constant fear of taking the wrong steps, of saying the wrong things. Her desire for change is finally revealed when she aides V in escaping from the police, thereby unintentionally throwing in her lot with the man people had called "terrorist." One of the scenes that most moved me in the film was the scene following Evey's breaking by V where it so beautifully parallels V's fiery rebirth with Evey's baptism by rain. It was in this moment that they truly became kindred spirits.

Another very important character was Inspector Finch, played by Stephen Rea. He would be most comparable to the character of Winston Smith in 1984. He was a higher ranking member of the controlling party, however, but he was feeling an increasing disdain for his government as he discovered more shady and criminal actions carried out by its members. The coup de grace was when it became clear to him that the horrible viral attacks on the people of London hadn't been carried out by enemies after all, but by those within trying to rise to power through instilling fear in the people.

Now, my obvious moral issues with vigilantism aside, the Wachowski Brothers did a phenomenal job of portraying the constant and terrible vigilance of Big Brother and every tiny detail in the movie was in support of this theme. From the street level eavesdropping on phone calls and personal conversation to the use of a thumb print to sign for packages they created a believable world for the viewer in which no word, action, or even thought seemed safe from observation and possible retribution. They are able to weave suggestions and plant seeds into the movie and allow the viewer to develop them without simply giving them everything down to the last detail. Its so rare to find a screenplay which shows this kind of control and ingenuity. For instance, when the detectives first discover the staff names at Larkhill Detention Center they note that the highest paid individual on staff was a priest. They do nothing to expound on this yet, leaving the viewer to wonder why and form theories. Much later when the diary of one of the staff is discovered it describes how on the priest's tour of the facility looking for violations one of the high party officials guaranteed the doctors that "everything would be fine." Without them saying it directly, the perceptive viewer learns that the priest was being paid for his silence while they continued their deadly experiments.

Many people have felt that the Wachowski Brothers are suggesting sympathy to the cause of the terrorists and are outright criticizing our own government for tyrannical actions in the middle east. For them, this is strengthened by the frequent anti-Muslim remarks. Despite the timing of the film's release the screenplay was actually written in the mid-90's, before the creation of "The Matrix," even. Though the material may resound loudly with the current political themes I truly don't feel this is anything more than coincidence. This is not the first time that a sympathetic villain has been drawn so well that the audience cheered for his success.

- - - - - Spoilers are over - - - - -

For anyone who has not yet seen this movie I would strongly urge you to buy it and watch it again and again as I have. It contains every element that a perfect screenplay should have and will always provide you with more surprises when you think you've finally mastered it.

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