L. Neil Smith's
Number 360, March 26, 2006

A Paper Manuscript

V For Vendetta Review
A Pretty Decent Anti-State Film, Though Not a Very Libertarian One

by Mark Quon

Exclusive to TLE

For those of you who are totally out of touch with the current movie scene, V for Vendetta is the new adaptation of the Alan Moore comic which has gained something of a cult following over the years though the screenplay for the film was written by the Wachowski Brothers of the Matrix Trilogy fame.

The film opens to a dystopian UK of the near future where the mysterious outbreak of a lethal disease cows the populace into accepting an all pervasive, all powerful totalitarian State where the people live under the iron fisted rule of dictator Adam Sutler (John Hurt) who maintains his authority through a combination of brutality and intimidation, on the one hand, and a massive propaganda organ, on the other.

The former is carried out by a myriad of agents of the State from the lowly neighborhood patrols (who are vested with the power to detain—and brutally rape, rob and assault with impunity—those who are caught for infractions as minor as violating the blanket curfew) to black ops units which target dissidents for abduction and assassination while the indoctrination of the masses is carried out by a government controlled media along with a quasi-fundmentalist State mandated Church.

The movie's plot concerns itself with news station employee Evey (Natalie Portman) and how she ends up being drawn into a nascent resistance movement when she is first rescued from marauding patrolmen by the masked one man guerrilla force known only as "V" (Hugo Weaving). Her involvement with V deepens when their path cross again during the masked avenger's takeover of her workplace for the purpose of a counter propaganda coup.

As the story unfolds, Evey gradually changes from a being reluctant participant to becoming a catalyst for a spontaneous uprising. There are several other story arcs one of which involves a conscientious police inspector (played by Stephen Rea who is probably best known here in the States for his roles in Michael Collins and The Crying Game) and the other involves the internecine plotting and intrigues between the heads of the various branches of the State which a vengeful V uses to his advantage.

While the movie is not Libertarian in nature, by any means, I still found it to be a sufficiently damning indictment of the State and unchecked power run amok as well as the unquestioning compliance of a passive and indifferent populace which makes such an occurence possible.

V's use of theatrics and manipulation of the media in his one man guerilla campaign against the State made for an entertaining illustration of assymetric warfare even if I found some of action scenes a bit too Matrix-like to be plausible in a movie of this nature. And his remark to Evey that "People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people" will certainly reasonate with the more libertarian minded viewers.

Another interesting aspect of the movie is how the authorities and their puppet media use the term "terrorist" as a catchall phrase to smear all those who oppose their rule as well as legitimize further encroachments upon their subjects. And while it is often posited that "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" I still found it disappointing that the film did not further explore the actual differences between those who are fighting an honorable war of resistance against a despotic regime which has suppressed all peaceful attempts at redress and those who deliberately slaughter innocents or engage in gangsterism (political or otherwise) under the guise of a noble struggle. Considering the film's ambivalence towards this subject matter it is fitting that both the historical figure of Guy Fawkes and his "Gunpowder Plot" should feature so prominently in this film.


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