V For Vendetta

V for Vendetta

Directed by James McTeigue

Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt

posterIn the year 2020, the world is ravaged by war, and specifically England has been overrun by a fascist dictator who guarantees the public safety, but denies them freedom. Civilians are ‘black-bagged’, raped by ‘finger men’ who patrol the streets, and not surprisingly, fed propaganda by the media on a regular basis.

A man in black who calls himself “V” roams the streets undetected. He is artistic, insane, clever, and driven. Throughout the entire film, he bears a stylized mask meant to resemble Guy Fawkes, who attemped to kill the King and both houses of Parliament in the 1600s, (and is still popular enough to be named among the top 100 Greatest Britons in a recent public opinion poll). Within a year he plans to carry out Fawkes’ plan on the anniversary of his arrest, November 5th. In V’s mind, the ends justify the means, so long as the ends is the downfall of the current government. So, basically… he’s no more or less a terrorist as Braveheart.

It’s the kind of story that’s been told many times before in science fiction, but one that given current world events (and having been released just days before the 3 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War) is subject to all sorts of accusations about its motives. But while the movie makes no bones that V is an insane extremist (and also bluntly says the evil dictator came from the conservative party) this doesn’t live up to the hype as the Bill O’Reilly bait it seemed to be running up to its release.

I had figured with the Wachowski Brothers (known for the Matrix and its sequels) involved as producers, the film would cut back and forth between action scenes and talky philosophical moments. It sort of does, however V is nowhere near as much an action film as I had figured it would be, and I mean this in the best way possible. The film is carried by its dialogue, which more than anything is used to paint the situation these characters have been put in, and why they feel they have to do what they do to get out of it. Because V has so much ‘splaining to do, he is clearly the most developed and interesting character. Initially it might be tough for some to sit and watch a man in an unchanging mask for over 2 hours, however Hugo “Agent Smith” Weaving uses body language and his voice so well he truly brings this character life, so much that you could look at V’s unchanging mask as one to be feared, sympathetic of, one that’s both happy, sad and angry all at different moments.

The future London McTeigue has constructed, in my opinion, was among the weaker points of the film. While I haven’t read the graphic novel and assumed it was kept at least somewhat like it, I felt its presentation kind of jumped back and forth between a very realistic, very modern world, and a more comic-ish one that seems to better fit V’s character. Government workers looking to find them are presented in a somewhat realistic, crime drama fashion, while government leaders are more over the top evil. I didn’t feel this gap was so wide to put me off, but it’s noticeable and one of many of the small imperfections of the film which add up to a very fond but not ‘in love’ recommendation. It’s worth noting that while Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea and John Hurt sometimes clash with each other in these different stylized settings, they are each enjoyable in their performances. While Portman is often considered overrated, I didn’t expect her to be as good (not great, but good) a fit as she turned out to be.

V for VendettaAnother example of the sort of thing that could have been improved were the few action scenes that did exist. While they were entertaining in their own right, the style has been overused lately, and considering V’s fondness for “the Count of Monte Cristo” as a recurring theme, a more swashbuckling style might have suited the film better. A scene towards the end too clearly unravels the entire evil plot by the government, which had been nicely assembled like a puzzle before. And while V’s constant alliteration, ‘not of this world’ gentlemanly actions are often charming, once in a while they are a little cheesy.

The author of the book on which it is based, Alan Moore, has come out against the film, however don’t let that influence your opinion. With all due respect to Moore (and sympathy for having to put up with the big screen adaptation disaster that was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), he’s one of those people who is immediately suspicious and insanely critical of anyone who touches his work. – Goon

SCORE: 3.5 stars