February 28, 2011

Queer Review: V for Vendetta (2006)

V for Vendetta
Director: James McTeigue
Writers: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Based on the graphic novel by David Lloyd.
Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.
-V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta is a complex sci-fi tale, set in Britain in the near future where the totalitarian government has absolute control over the populace. Utterly compelling, the provocative philosophizing it engages in gives viewers plenty of thematic material to think about.

Evey (Natalie Portman) is an ordinary woman who is stopped by the Fingerman (the movie's secret police), when walking on the streets one night past curfew. Before they can carry out their plans (which include rape and assault) she is rescued by the mysterious V, a masked vigilante whose plans include destroying the all powerful government and replacing it with anarchy. The first step in V's complex plan is blowing up the Old Baily, which sets in motion a series of events he hopes will end with the destruction of the current government led by Adam Sutler (John Hurt).

The Queering
Controversial for a very good reason, V for Vendetta is the type of movie that takes it's main theme of anarchy so far that it refuses to endorse a central thesis of any kind. Instead, we are required to decide for ourselves what to think of V's plans and actions. Stop for a moment to contemplate the following, V is a terrorist who uses violence and fear as his main tactics. There are more than a few parallels between Osama Bin Laden and V regarding tactics (blowing up buildings) and goals (bringing down a government).

Acting wise, Hugo Weaving does more with his face hidden behind V's Guy Fawkes mask, than most actors are capable of when they are not faced with such restrictions. Natalie Portman is good, although her occasional slip ups with the British accent can be distracting. Stephen Fry, John Hurt, and Stephen Rea all provide solid support.

I would also like to point out how impressive the cinematography is. There are many shots that obviously took a great deal of effort to create and from a technical standpoint, it's hard to find a better composed movie. More than one sequence has a ferocious and poetic grace capable of raising the neck hairs.

V for Vendetta does two things worth mentioning in regards to it's gay characters. For one, it "gays up" a character. Stephen Fry's originally in the comics straight character, Dietrich, reveals to Evey when she goes to him for shelter, that his deepest secrets are kept buried in the closet. Two, in a rather touching sub-plot that also shows the plight suffered by queers under Sutler's regime, it is revealed that it was a lesbian who inspired V to begin his revolution. While V for Vendetta may not be "one of the most pro-gay" movies ever - as suggested by Sarah Warn - as both of the gay characters die before the end, the positive steps forward made here are worth celebrating.

The Recomendation
Given the care the movie was put together with, the positive portrayals of it's gay characters, the entertaining storyline that combines action with philosophical provocativeness, I have to give this movie a high recommendation. V for Vendetta is worth seeking out for anyone, not just those who can appreciate over the top comic book adaptations.

The Rating:

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