V for Vendetta
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film includes recurring and explicit violence, including explosions, martial arts fights, knifings (with bloody results quite visible), shootings, and torture inside prison cells (where one character shares her space with a rat). The film opens with a flashback to a 1605 hanging, and then, in the present, an imminent rape (stopped by V's violent intervention). The film includes scenes of war and police state tactics, including the brutal incarceration of race and sexual minorities in Britain. A young girl sees her mother kidnapped by government flunkies, then witnesses a similar brutality as an adult. When a bishop arranges for sex with an underage girl (apparently a regular practice), he's killed as punishment (but not before he pushes his would-be girl victim onto his bed). Characters curse occasionally (infrequent use of the f-word, plus "bloody hell," "bitch," and the s-word).
What's the story?
More generic action movie than philosophical investigation, V FOR VENDETTA focuses on a young woman's political education. The underlying, irresolvable question has to do with terrorism: why and how are people pushed to commit it, and what might it achieve, aside from fear and oppression? Can calculated violence, ever, as its proponents argue, lead to "freedom"? At the center of is masked terrorist V (Hugo Weaving), who battles against a very corrupt British regime. Out after curfew, Evey (Natalie Portman) is about to be raped by some bad cops when V appears, kills them, and initiates his instruction of the vulnerable Evey in his anarchistic plot. V's rage is fueled by the usual superhero's past trauma. While the movie allows that torture only reproduces terrorism and violence, it also presents V's scheme as revolutionary and effectively symbolic. While V is hunted by a decent cop Finch (Stephen Rea), he keeps Evey at his secret lair, where he makes her tea and eggs for breakfast. Her eventual escape only leads her to a more awful place, imprisoned and tortured. At last, she admits, she is no longer afraid to die. And in this, she finds what V calls "freedom."
Is it any good?
Heavy-handed pronouncements exemplify V for Vendetta's distrust of viewers to interpret what they see, making the film's political and social commentary seem more cartoonish than insightful. Yes, imperialism is really bad, and yes, Nazi-ish iconography is a sure sign of a regime's need for change. What's less clear, and could use some reflection, is how V's violent acts will or will not produce more victims and vigilantes. "Freedom and justice are more than words," he says, "They are perspectives." And as such, they need rethinking at every step.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the film's presentation of terrorism as reasonable response to state oppression. Is violence ever an appropriate response? How do the evil chancellor's raging and V's tragic background (abused and institutionalized as a child) make V's cause seem sympathetic, even if it's illegal and aggressive? How does Evey's own childhood loss of her parents make her ready to be V's protégé? For fans of the book, families can discuss the differences between the film and its inspiration.