is that masked man? Weaving in V for Vendetta.
by James McTeigue
That George Orwell used talking animals to make his political
allegories is a precedent of sorts for V for Vendetta,
the exuberantly subversive new film from the Wachowski brothers
(and their protégé, director James McTeigue). Unabashedly
a comic-book flick, V for Vendetta is both a pop-arty
joyride and a thought-provoking poke of the stick into the
snoring beehive of democratic citizenry. Adapted from the
trailblazing comic series by Alan Moore, the script has been
smartly updated from the Thatcher era to the Iraq War era.
The gist of this vigilante thriller is fear: how oppressors
use fear as a control tool, and how resisting fear can liberate
the populace. But first, it opens with an evocative prologue
regarding Guy Fawkes, the English rebel who was hanged in
1605 for his part in the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament.
As in the Wachowskis’ 1940s-noirish The Matrix, the
past is the present just as much as the future is the present.
Here, it’s the year 2020. America is being laid to waste by
civil war, and Britain is ruled by a totalitarian dictator.
Creating fear of terrorism is one of the regime’s most effective
gambits, along with fears of viral epidemics, immigrants,
Evey (Natalie Portman) is a gofer at the state-sanctioned
TV station. Out one night past curfew, she is intercepted
by government goons, and then rescued from certain rape by
a caped avenger (Hugo Weaving). Disguised by a Guy Fawkes
mask, the avenger displays a superhuman skill with ninja-type
knife fighting, and an almost equally dazzlingly elocution:
He explains himself to Evey with a rant of razor-sharp alliteration.
Both scared and fascinated, Evey calls him “V,” more for his
favorite consonant than for the knife mark he leaves as a
calling card. Without quite meaning to, she enters into his
elaborate scheme of retribution. For V is not fighting for
truth, justice, or revolution, but for vengeance, pure and
simple. And if truth, justice, and revolution are served along
the way, well, a streak of predestination is something that
Orwell, Moore, and the Wachowskis all have an appreciation
Equal parts Zorro, Phantom of the Opera, and Count of Monte
Cristo, V begins his obsessively premeditated revenge with
the explosion of the Old Bailey building. The grand old structure
goes down spectacularly, accompanied by fireworks and the
1812 Overture. As expected from the Wachowskis, the
film’s visual style is flashily kinetic. It’s also disturbing
without being sick, and violent without being gory: In a climactic
set piece, V duels with a goon squad, and his daggers leave
motion waves in the air while the blood spurts in comic-like
Weaving, with his dispassionately magnetic voice, is an ideal
choice for V. With just his hypnotic voice patterns (and a
really cool mask), Weaving creates a fully dimensional and
Evey also has to throw off oppression, but hers is of a more
personal nature. An easily cowed conformist, she is forced
to find her inner strength in a tour-de-force sequence (Portman,
who is not a great actress, pulls this off by sheer sincerity).
The film’s psychology is as crazily gutsy as its sociopolitical
knife strokes. In fact, V for Vendetta is nervy enough
to end on a note of we-are-the-world optimism. Perhaps only
a comic-book flick could get away with being that radical.
ANY OTHER NAME
by Andy Fickman
What’s more unbelievable than the plot of She’s the Man,
in which a girl pretends to be her brother in order to make
the soccer team, play the sport she loves and, in the process,
get revenge on her boor of an ex-boyfriend? Well, perhaps
Twelfth Night, the Shakespeare play on which this teen
comedy is based.
A surprisingly fresh comedy, She’s the Man offers the
endearing Amanda Bynes as Viola Hastings. When her private
school cuts the girls soccer team, and she is not allowed
to try out for the boys team, she takes advantage of her twin
brother Sebastian’s (James Kirk) absence by taking his place
at his school and, well—you read the setup in the first paragraph.
Of course, Viola-as-Sebastian’s roommate turns out to be hunky
Duke Orsini (Channing Tatum), the team captain, who has an
unrequited thing for Olivia (Laura Ramsey), who in turn has
the hots for the faux Sebastian. After a humorous staged scene
proves to Duke and the guys that Sebastian is, after all,
BMOC material, Viola-as-Sebastian offers to coach the tongue-tied
jock in such a way as to woo the lovely Olivia. Meanwhile,
Viola, as herself, falls in love with Duke, while the real
Sebastian’s very bitchy girlfriend Monique totters at the
edge of the proceedings in her Jimmy Choos, threatening to
expose the whole sham.
the Man has all the trappings of classic teen-angst flicks,
from Gidget to John Hughes. The soundtrack pulsates
cool vibrations and the characters are all good-looking in
a nonthreatening kind of way. That said, it provides strikingly
sharp observations about the vapidity of being a white suburban
male—when did these guys start talking like 50 Cent?—and its
depiction of high-school politics is refreshingly direct.
Mostly, however, it’s a flick that is surprisingly effective,
mostly because of Bynes’ ability to depict both the sweet
and the sappy of teenage puppy love. As a boy, she’s a hoot
to watch in general, but it’s when, disguised as her brother,
she darts furtive longing looks at her beloved Duke while
maintaining a masculine pose that she really gets to us. You
want her to succeed, both on the soccer field and off, and
if in the process you feel young again, so what?