The film V for Vendetta is a vivid new version of a vintage graphic novel about the veracity of venturing acts of virtuous vengeance and violence with a view to vanquishing the victims of vile governmental vermin and emerge victorious. It’s a vessel for variations of alliteration and the veritable veneration for the Count of Monte Cristo and English folk hero Guy Fawkes.
I know that sentence is verbose and confusing, but that’s OK, because the movie is a bit like that as well, but it is also entertaining and exciting.
The Wachowski Brothers, creators of The Matrix movies, wrote the screenplay based on an anti-Margaret Thatcher comic book by writer Alan Moore. Set in futuristic Britain—one that closely resembles not only the grim world the brothers created for The Matrix but also George Orwell’s 1984—neo-fascists have gained control, keeping the public under their boot-heel by imposing a cruel reign of law and order while stripping away personal rights and freedoms.
Only one man fights back. The street fightin’ man is named V and his libertarian campaign of terror, (and his life), are based on Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 tried to blow up London’s Parliament. V wears a Fawkes mask and plans to stick it to the man with a bang on November 5, on the anniversary of his predecessor’s failed attempt. Joining him in his updated one-man Gunpowder Plot is Evie (Natalie Portman) a bull-headed heroine who rebels against the norm.
V for Vendetta echoes many classic grim speculative fictions about the future—A Clockwork Orange, Brazil and Fahrenheit 451 come to mind—and is very effective in creating an atmosphere where everything from homosexuality to Islam has been declared illegal. On the downside every character seems to take the story on a different digression. Too many character tangents take away from the main focus of the piece.
Luckily we care about the characters. Natalie Portman—bald and beautiful for part of the film—is very effective as Evie, particularly in some brutal emotional scenes that replicate the atrocities of the Holocaust. But as good as she is it is Hugo Weaving as V who steals the show, no mean feat considering that we never see his face. He is covered with a Guy Fawkes mask for the entire film and through vocal and physical inflections manages grand, operatic passion, conveying conflicting emotions from great anger to tenderness to despair. This is far more than a voice-over job.
V for Vendetta is an interesting movie. It is a film about civil liberties in which you root for the terrorist. It’s an emotionally complex counter-culture rant about ideas and the importance of being true to your ideas. It’s an allegorical story that should resonate in the Bush era as much as Moore’s work did in Thatcher’s day.
The verdict on V for Vendetta is four stars.