Review: V For Vendetta (Film)

We remember, remember V For Vendetta for its thematic power, characters and plot…

 

2016 has been a scary year in many ways. A year which has seen certain countries elect to block themselves off from the rest of the world and certain presidential candidates spout some terrifying ideas. These things – if we’re not careful – could lead the world into a less tolerant future… A future that V For Vendetta tried to warn us against. Now that it seems more relevant than ever, it’s a film that’s very much worth revisiting again.

Originally an acclaimed graphic novel written by Alan Moore, the 2006 movie version updated the ideas to reflect a post-9/11 world. V For Vendetta is set in an England of the near future where the neo-nazi Norsefire Party (led by John Hurt’s ranting Adam Sutler) has taken charge – and where being part of an ethnic or sexual minority is punishable by death. But there is a figure of justice waiting in the wings…

Written and produced by the Waschowski siblings, The Matrix creators’ influence can be felt in the core subject matter – the rebellion against a totalitarian society – as well as the slow-mo action scenes. Their script and the direction of James McTeague should be commended for filtering down and updating Moore’s novel for the big screen. Some things are glossed over a little too quickly, but mostly this is a well-oiled movie that keeps its story and themes in check.

However, though the political overtones might be the big talking point of the film, it belongs to Hugo Weaving as V. A personal favourite anti-hero character, he fascinatingly straddles the line between saviour and psychopath. In one sense, he’s a champion of the oppressed, a freedom fighter… but on the other he is purposefully orchestrating a chaotic rebellion in which he knows innocents will die. And isn’t freedom fighter just another term for terrorist?

The key to his success is surely Weaving’s performance, a masterclass of voice and physical acting, as we never actually get to see his face. Somehow, he makes us get behind this lunatic and you find yourself cheering when as he destroys famous landmarks – not something that traditionally gets a round of applause. It would have been very easy for Hollywood to have cast, say, Tom Cruise as V and have him whip off his mask every five seconds but let’s be thankful they did not.

Sadly, for me, the film’s other lead – Natalie Portman as Evey – is one of the few weak points of the film. Portman is a fine actress, but as a Brit I find her attempt at an English accent distracting. Evey is intended to be an everywoman character and so Portman’s aristocratic/Australian intonation is all wrong. I’ve also never bought how Evey forgives V for a certain terrible ordeal he puts her through, though that is a feature of the original graphic novel so it is unfair to blame the film for that one.

The addition of a romance between V and Evey is another element that is not entirely successful. However, though it is rather awkwardly crowbarred in, it does not unbalance the film’s anarchic tone. There is the typical Hollywood kiss between the leading man and lady at the end, but it is between two terrorists – once of whom is still wearing a mask – as they are about to blow up the Houses of Parliament. It’s not exactly a scene you’ll find in any old blockbuster.

As the UK and the US heads into an uncertain time, this slick and intelligent thriller which warns against the mob mentality and entrusting politicians implicitly is a must-watch. For the brave messages at its core and for just being great entertainment, I see no reason why this movie should ever be forgot…ten.

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