Kristen Brown, Special to CTV.ca
If you had to choose, would you choose life or liberty?
For most, life comes before liberty, because without life what is liberty? But what kind of life can be had if there isn't individual freedom?
Is life without liberty no life at all?
These are just some of the questions explored in V for Vendetta, a new film set in the not-so-distant future about a masked freedom fighter who takes on an oppressive totalitarian regime.
Written and producted by Andy and Larry Wachowski, the creative force behind The Matrix trilogy, Vendetta is based on Allen Moore's 1980s dark graphic novel that follows a masked crusader who commits acts of terrorism in an attempt to defeat the corrupt and tyrannical government.
Vendetta, James McTeigue's directorial debut, is set in a totalitarian England where its racist and homophobic chancellor/dictator (John Hurt) strips citizens of their civil rights and freedoms in exchange for state protection from bioweapons.
The government's totalitarian Big-Brother-esque strategy to fight terrorism, leaves little room for public debate or dissent.
At the center of the story is the mysterious V, (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings) a Guy Fawkes mask wearing anarchist who saves a woman named Evey from being raped by state police. After their chance encounter, V inspires her to join his crusade to restore civil liberties through acts of terrorism.
"It's less of a message and more of a question which is 'when if ever is violence justified'? And you can say that there are certain situations when it is justified," Natalie Portman, who plays Evey, told eTalk.
Vendetta explores the idea that one person's terrorist may be another person's freedom fighter.
"The film is about asking questions and presenting ideas and hopefully you take some of the questions and ideas out of the cinema and think about them and discuss them with your friends," McTeigue told eTalk Daily.
Many are drawing parallels to post-9/11 America with its renewed Patriot Act, illegal wire tapping and recent Google ruling.
"Some people say, 'oh this is about Hitler's Germany, oh this is about Saddam Hussein's Iraq, oh this is about today's democratic government,' even." Portman said. "People make so many different connections that I think it really respects the audience that way – to interpret it how they want."
This trade off between individual freedoms and security has been a hot topic of late in the United States.
The debate was revived recently after U.S. President George Bush's adamant defence of his decision to approve secret wire-tapping. What many critics are calling an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, the Bush Administration calls a necessary sacrifice for security.
But are freedom and security truly mutually exclusive? Or is that just the current perception?
Although present day America may be a far cry from the fear-mongering dictatorship depicted in Vendetta, the film at times resembles real life more than science fiction.
A U.S. court ruled Wednesday that the search engine Google must share some of its records with the U.S. Justice Department -- just days before Vendetta will be released in North America.
While Google will not have to provide data on specific individuals, many argue that this ruling will form a precedent which could lead to more invasive government probes into personal information.
As well, the release of the film, which contains scenes of terrorist attacks on iconic London buildings, was delayed after real-life terrorists struck London's underground shortly after the crew wrapped shooting in the city.
"The last sequence where the houses of parliament blow up is a disturbing one for most people for the many reasons. Because the houses of parliament represents democracy to us and yet in the world of this film it is the symbol of oppression," Weaving told eTalk.
"I think London being such an old established democracy and then to make a story about what would happen if it was a totalitarian society…it's the scariest possibility," Portman added.
While some will consider this film as nothing more than entertaining science fiction, others will see it as a social critique of the direction today's policy makers are heading.
Between the threat of terrorism in North America and the United Kingdom, the film has the explosive potential to resonate loudly with audiences, and may cast the "war on terror" in a whole new light.
"It is a film about ideas and those ideas are very topical and relevant to the world in which we live. I suspect it will garner quite a bit of debate," Weaving said.