February 6, 2007
V for Vendetta (2005) – USA, UK, Germany – James McTeigue
Despite some heavy-handed allegory, this melding of action film and political thriller succeeds marvelously as rousing entertainment. It begins in an England of the near future, where a dictatorial Grand Chancellor (John Hurt) wields supreme power and enforces his self-made laws with the aid of secret police. He is opposed by a mysterious avenger calling himself "V" (Hugo Weaving). Wrapped in a cloak and wearing a mask of Guy Fawkes — an Englishman who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the early 1600s — V uses terrorist tactics against the Chancellor, who assigns a dogged police inspector (Stephen Rea) to run the miscreant to ground. Enter Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a young woman mistakenly identified as V's accomplice after he rescues her from some government thugs. Much more intricate and character-driven than the average popcorn movie, V for Vendetta boasts a superior script by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski (of The Matrix fame), based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore. James McTeigue's direction is unusually well modulated; he eschews the overuse of fancy camera moves and showy special effects in favor of shrewd story development. He also shows restraint in the handling of his principal characters. Daring, flamboyant, and stylish, V for Vendetta is the very model of a suspenseful action movie that takes itself seriously without surrendering the obvious entertainment value that makes it so irresistible.