Deseret Morning News
By Jeff Vice
March, 17 2006
V FOR VENDETTA — *** 1/2 — Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea; rated R (violence, profanity, gore, drugs, vulgarity, torture, brief nudity).
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, "V for Vendetta" is a revolutionary film, a movie project based on a comic-book series that actually features a masked character who isn't so much a hero as an anti-hero.
Then there's the movie's sure-to-be-controversial examinations of anarchy movements and acts of terrorism, which could be misinterpreted as a call to arms against corrupt governments. But moviegoers who look deeper will understand that the film actually argues for the participation of the masses in governing their own countries.
"V for Vendetta" is a thought-provoking, suspenseful thriller set in the near future, as the American empire is in ruins and sees a fascist version of England as the new world leader. That country's citizenry lives in fear, including Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a British television intern.
Evey is attacked by a gang of men, but she is subsequently rescued by a masked man (Hugo Weaving) calling himself V and whose mask resembles 17th-century English revolutionary Guy Fawkes.
The mystery man then blows up the Old Bailey (England's highest court) and also threatens to blow up Parliament in a year. Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) hopes to catch him before then, though he finds his loyalties tested by what he discovers during his investigation. And so does Evey, who isn't convinced by V's belief that the ends justify the means when it comes to acts of terrorism.
This adaptation is surprisingly faithful to the source material — writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd's 10-issue miniseries from the early 1980s (which was eventually compiled into graphic-novel form). Producers/screenwriters the Wachowski brothers have done some updating, changing the date of the piece from 1997 and throwing in allusions to AIDS and viral warfare, as well as a few nods to Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo."
First-time director John McTeigue has developed his own style, one that isn't as video game-inspired as that of the Wachowskis. (There's definitely some Terry Gilliam at work here.) He also gets splendid performances from his cast.
It could be argued that this is career-best work from Portman, who adopts a credible English accent. And Weaving is a more than adequate replacement for James Purefoy, who left the film midway through. (Some of Purefoy's physical contributions behind V's mask can still be seen in the film, though all of his dialogue has been replaced by Weaving.)
"V for Vendetta" is rated R for strong scenes of action violence (beatings, shootings, stabbings, explosive mayhem and some violence against women), occasional use of strong sexual profanity and some crude slang terms, some gore, some drug content, a scene of torture and imprisonment and brief glimpses of nude bodies and nude artwork. Running time: 130 minutes.