I'm not easily beguiled by films. Rare indeed is the cinema flick that impresses me thoroughly -- I sit in Neronian judgment of dialogue, editing rhythms, musical choices, and the nuts-and-bolts of storytelling, and the instant a film errs even slightly in my sight, I begin to shift uncomfortably in my seat and think longingly of dinner.
My skepticism and fault-finding do not diminish with age. I don't know whether it's me or the movies that's to blame here, but I find that increasingly, commercial directors just don't possess even the simple expository skills to convey a set of sequential events in such a way that they tell a coherent story. Whether it's an overstylized and unintelligible fight scene or a tin-eared line reading, films exasperate me far too easily.
All of which goes to explain why I was so thoroughly prepared to detest V for Vendetta, which I saw last night on the strength of Wolcott's rave. I loathed The Matrix with a loathing borne of sickness from cheap late-night dorm-room woo-heavy cosmology, and philosophy of the rigor of a bowl of three-day-old Grape-Nuts in milk, all in service of a bitchen ultraviolent shootout climax with slo-mo bullets. The name of the Wachowski brothers on Vendetta's screenplay set my Spidey-sense a-quivering -- based on a graphic novel (a genre Lit-Boy here seems tragically doomed to subject to knee-jerk disparagement), the film trumpeted its moron-stoner-cred from fifty paces.
Folks, this is a truly thrilling movie.
The core truth of the thing -- overcoming fear of political engagement -- is exactly the same insight that smacked me so hard across the face after I watched Al Gore speak truth to power about blatantly illegal domestic spying, and emerged onto Pennsylvania Avenue to find the White House converted into a missile-hardened pillbox.
Perhaps most surprisingly to me, at no point did I find myself rolling my eyes and groaning at some directorial solecism. The dialog rang true, the plot was skillfully exposed, and (as Wolcott is at pains to point out) the cross-cutting in the climactic domino scene is rhythmically beautiful, and as deftly pulled off as Brian DePalma at the top of his game.
As Wolcott points out, we know how we got here. The point, Vendetta reminds us, is how we get out. And if we must wear a mask, then so be it, for "People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments… Governments should be afraid of their people."
You're going to have to argue hard to get me off this movie.