Sky Movies Greats: Thursday 5 November, 8.00pm
America has been judged and found wanting. The former US of A is a leper colony. Britain did what it had to do to survive the plague. And the iron-fisted dictatorship imposes brutal punishments on dissenters. Order and peace was promised, silent obedience is the cost. The voice of London is crocked.
Until Hugo Weaving shows up like Zorro in a Guy Fawkes mask, talking in florid alliterative phrases. As midnight strikes on the evening ofNovember 4, he blows up the Old Bailey. Through state-controlled media, the government spins it as emergency demolition work. I’m guessing Matrix mischief-makers Andy and Larry Wachowski adapted this gloomy fantasy from a graphic novel (and I’d be right – although author Alan Moore reportedly begged Warners to leave his name off the credits).
All the Orwellian themes are in place (John Hurt video-phones in his Big Brother turn; once upon a time he was Winston Smith). Governments tell lies to hide the truth. Artists use lies to tell the truth. People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.
And Natalie Portman should be afraid of men in weird masks with brainwashing in mind. There’s some blood-spattered action near the end, but on the way it’s a bit of a plod. Even the music only gets impressive during the closing titles. The sets, though, they’re really good. They were built on the same stage at Berlin’s Babelsberg Studio where Fritz Lang directed Metropolis.