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Thursday, March 16, 2006 06:23 pm

V is for violence

There’s no gray in this simplistic, overwrought tale of revenge

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There is no gray in James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta, only characters who are truly reprehensible and those who are persecuted. The result is a simplistic, overwrought tale of revenge rather than a thoughtful examination of the mind of a revolutionary. A more mature attempt would have given us a hero a bit more conflicted and not as single-minded as V (Hugo Weaving), a mysterious poetry-spouting rogue who models his efforts to topple a modern-day totalitarian government on those of 17th-century English revolutionary Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. V plans on doing the same thing and even broadcasts a one-year notice of his intent in an effort to rally public support and unnerve the regime. Authorities take V seriously, especially after he escapes their clutches at the state-controlled television station, BTN. Fear is a great motivator, but, as Chief Inspector Deitrich (Stephen Fry) uncovers long-held secrets involving ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, and medical experimentation on human beings, he begins to understand how deep the level of corruption is in the government and just what V’s motivation might be. What he can’t figure out is why such a sweet girl as Evey (Natalie Portman), an employee at BTN who seems to be V’s apprentice, would be involved with this madman. George Orwell’s world from 1984 seems tame compared with this dystopian vision, a nightmarish society in which homosexuals are rounded up and sent to internment camps, any behavior that is seen as slightly out of the norm is crushed, and the government perpetuates fear to stay in power. In this context, V’s actions come off as completely justifiable. Never mind that he’s a terrorist in the truest sense of the word. Actions that we deplore today take on a heroic light here, and the audience is manipulated into overlooking the innocents who are surely harmed in V’s attacks — just because he’s right and his enemy wrong. This sort of storytelling is not only simplistic, it’s irresponsible as well.
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