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Action-Thriller <i>V for Vendetta</i> Has Political Undertone

A bold revolutionary confronts a totalitarian government in a new political action thriller based on a popular graphic novel and adapted for the screen by the writers of The Matrix trilogy. Alan Silverman has a look at V For Vendetta.

The place is England. The time is the not too distant future ... about 20 years from now. In response to terror attacks, the government has assumed tyrannical powers. In the name of safety, rights are abridged or eliminated.

Fear keeps most Londoners indoors; but on one fateful evening, a young woman named Evey Hammond finds herself out after curfew and is set upon by a sadistic squad of enforcers known as "finger men." Suddenly from the shadows there is a rescuer: a man wearing a grinning mask ... but there is nothing humorous about the vigilante justice he metes out with his blades as he recites Shakespeare.

Evey discovers her masked champion calls himself "V" and fashions his actions after Guy Fawkes, who attempted to overthrow the British government with his notorious "Gunpowder Plot" in 1605. Wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, "V" is determined to succeed at what his 17th century role model failed to do and he woos Evey to his revolutionary cause.

Australian actor Hugo Weaving is the man behind the mask and Israeli-born American actress Natalie Portman plays Evey.

"I was really excited by the idea of getting into the mind of someone who would use violence and who goes through that transformation," she says, "someone who starts out as a non-violent person just trying to keep safe in this totalitarian society and becoming someone who believes that violence is an acceptable means to rebel against an oppressive government.

"I think that this film asks questions more than anything because of the way that all the characters are represented," adds Portman. "The hero is not a classic movie hero, but more of a classic Greek hero with a tragic flaw that he is out for revenge. There are many points in the movie where he is a pretty bad guy and you're not with him. I think that complexity and also how Evey makes her transformation to become violent is complicated as well because in some ways you see that she's meeting her destiny, but in other ways she's finding her integrity and in other ways she's being manipulated. So all of those things together give you a complex view of what it takes to make a person believe that they can use violence as a means of expressing their political beliefs."

"It's a cautionary tale," explains producer Joel Silver. "V says people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people. That is the essence of the story."

Silver, well-known for his action films, insists that V For Vendetta is not intended as a comment on contemporary politics; and Silver points out that the graphic novels (or comic books) on which it is based were written in the 1980's.

"It's just a movie. It's a movie of a time and a place that's a mythical society," Silver says. "It's not the the society that we live in today. It was just in the graphic novel. That was the story and it was the essence of what the story was, so we dramatized the story."

Director James McTeigue, who makes his feature film debut with V For Vendetta, says his intention was to make a thrilling action film with political overtones; but McTeigue also believes the specific politics depend on who is watching the film.

"I totally believe what you bring into the cinema is what you'll take out," he says. "Depending on what age you are or what political bias you have, you'll see the film about different things ... or I hope you'll see the film about different things. I didn't set out to make it about any one particular government or regime and I think those ideas come and go and that polemic comes and goes.

The international cast of V For Vendetta also features Belfast native Stephen Rea as the police inspector trying to stop the rebellion; and veteran English actor John Hurt is the dictatorial Chancellor. The screenplay is by Andy and Larry Wachowski, the Chicago-born filmmakers who wrote and directed The Matrix trilogy.