V for Vendetta
Starring:
Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt
Directed By:
James McTeigue
Grade
A

Much has already been made about this film adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's sociopolitical story about a terrorist in a Totalitarian society. Hard-to-please literary genius Alan Moore turned his back on the film (he's not even credited at his own request) and the film was delayed from a release late last year (it would have been released too soon to the terrorist attacks in the UK). Even with these bumps in the road, V for Vendetta manages to capture a certain feel that many films have failed to deliver.

The story begins with a retelling of the story of Guy Fawkes, who on November the 5th, 1605, failed in his attempt to blow up the Parliament building. Of course, this history lesson is merely a setup for when we meet the mysterious terrorist, V, who wears a Guy Fawkes mask to hide his identity. As is revealed in bits and pieces throughout the movie, the United Kingdom is noticeably different than the one we know of today. It's now a dark, soulless totalitarian state where free speech is suppressed and anything seen as an aberration (like homosexuality and non-Christian religions) are suppressed. The UK has become a brutal society of secret police and people being taken away to camps in the middle of the night.

The young Evey (Portman) finds herself connected to V (Weaving) when he rescues her from being sexually assaulted one night by police officers. This same night, he brings her to a viewing of his first act of terrorism in his year long plan to change the way his country thinks and acts. It isn't long before the police are after Evey, who has a troubled history of her own - her parents were political activists and were "black bagged" (taken away by the secret police) when she was just a child. Once again, V saves Evey, but this time he takes her to his home, where she begins to gain an insight into his mind and why he does what he does.

After escaping from V, she ends up at the home of a friend, who decides to make a political jab at the Chancellor (Hurt) in his show. When the police come to black bag him, Evey is captured. Her imprisonment and torture work to create a strength in her that once she is released, allows her to move freely in society without the fear of the government that holds the rest of the country's citizens. Throughout the country, V's plans begin to take effect as events progress towards his one year ultimatum.

There are a lot of repeated events and actions throughout the film, presenting a pattern to the weight of the events. The scenes where Gordon Deitrich (Fry) is black bagged in front of Evey is so similar to when her mother was that it's evident that history is repeating itself and that nothing has changed for the better. It's these kind of sequences that, while a bit aggressive in their delivery, underscore the themes that the story is trying to deliver.

Acting-wise, the cast really pulls off their roles well. Natalie is excellent in her role as a witness, and eventual participant, to the events. Her interrogation and reactions to the world she lives in really sets a nice tone for her part of the story. Stephen Rea is excellent as Chief Inspector Finch, a man told to capture V, but instead becomes quick intrigued by her quarry, so much so that it begins to reshape how he thinks about the country he's such a strong part of. Hugo Weaving's part as V is phenomenal. For an actor to have to spend the whole movie behind a mask, Weaving creates such an enigmatic character just through his voice and mannerisms. Hugo's ability to deliver sharp lines just through his exaggerated head movements and deep, yet crisp, voice is a testament to the quality of his art.

Production-wise, the film is executed well, with well-realized real world sets and costuming. The Guy Fawkes mask is iconic in execution and will likely go down in film history for it's visual importance. Action sequences are well choreographed, especially the final fight sequence between V and the secret police.

V for Vendetta finds an excellent balance in the many aspects it tries to bring to the table. Equal parts drama, sociopolitical statement and action flick, all the components of the story work wonderfully to keep the viewer entertained. While it may not be a true translation of the graphic novel, it does capture a lot of it's spirit and creates a wonderful viewing experience.

- - Kinderfeld

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