Review by Jack Foley
IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Freedom! Forever! Making V for Vendetta; Featurette: Designing the Near Future; Featurette: Remember Remember: Guy Fawkes and The Gunpowder Plot; Featurette: England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics; Cat Power montage; Theatrical trailer.
BASED on the acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore, V For Vendetta could just as easily stand for V for volatile given the incendiary nature of its many combustible elements.
Set in a futuristic London that’s governed by a totalitarian, fascist regime still thriving on continued post 9/11 paranoia, the film follows the fortunes of a masked terrorist, known only as V (Hugo Weaving), as he begins a year-long campaign to precipitate change.
Using Guy Fawkes as his inspiration, V begins by blowing up the Old Bailey before vowing to detonate Parliament in the desperate hope that Britain will re-emerge from its apathy to overthrow its oppressive politicians.
Caught in the crossfire is an unlikely young ally named Evey (Natalie Portman), whose past is mysteriously linked to V’s, and the investigating officer (Stephen Rea) assigned to put an end to the rebellion.
From the outset, V For Vendetta – based on a screenplay by the Wachowski brothers and directed by James McTeigue – is designed to challenge and make viewers think.
Its emotive subject matter is likely to inspire as much anger as it does empathy given its proximity to real events, with key scenes such as a bomb-laden Tube train on London’s Underground certain to hit a raw nerve.
Yet for those willing to step back and consider its themes the film provides plenty to chew over, raising many questions it doesn’t profess to answer.
It’s another mainstream film that isn’t afraid to tackle current issues, going one step beyond the likes of Syriana and Munich to present a nightmarish ‘what if’ scenario for the future that defies easy debate.
How far should a government go in restricting the personal liberty of its people in the hope of defeating terrorism? And should a terrorist such as V ever be turned into the potential hero of popular entertainment?
Indeed, the film invites viewers to ponder the very points it makes, including, most pertinently, the line that ‘people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people’.
As the masked terrorist V, Weaving does a virtuoso job of exploring the character’s motivations by relying on nothing more than his voice and mannerisms to explain his torment and determination.
While Portman is also convincing in the pivotal role of Evey, despite being hindered somewhat by her English accent. She did, of course, notably shave her head for the film’s second act.
There’s strong support, too, from the likes of John Hurt, as a tyrannical government leader, and Stephen Fry, as a TV host who is forced to hide his own homosexuality from the disapproving state.
Intriguingly, Moore – who wrote the original graphic novels in response to the Thatcher administration of the 80s – has practically dis-owned the movie, believing that it should have remained within the time he set it.
Yet that would arguably have blunted its impact given the emotive times in which we live.
V For Vendetta does, of course, still boast the visual pyrotechnics expected of such a blockbuster, book-ending proceedings with two almighty explosions and dropping in the odd Matrix-style fight sequence.
But it is primarily interested in making people think and does so with noteworthy relish. The questions remain long after the dust has settled on the action sequences.
As noble as V’s vendetta remains within the context of the movie, should his tactics ever be applauded? Is Evey’s ‘education’ a wake-up call or mere brainwashing as employed by countless religious fanatics? And is her incarceration designed as a metaphor for the ongoing human rights violations at Guantanamo?
Indeed, in a political climate as volatile as today’s, how far away is the chaos predicted in the movie as governments continue to grapple the need to defeat terrorism without restricting the freedom we so crave?
V For Vendetta may not provide any answers but it does inspire serious thought while providing plenty to entertain. The V could just as easily stand for valiant in terms of film-making.
Running time: 130 minutes