V For Vendetta

5 stars


24th March 2006

"What we need right now is a clear message to the people of this country. This message must be read in every newspaper, heard on every radio, seen on every television. I want this country to realise that we stand on the edge of oblivion. I want everyone to remember why they need us!" The words here are being spoken, nay, barked by the fictional leader of a largely exaggerated totalitarian Britain, but while watching V For Vendetta, you can't help but think that comparisons with our current climate aren't exactly unfounded. Believe everything the government and the media tell you, and we're under threat at every turn from terrorists who want to blow us up, wear our skins and rape our swans; if things continue in this manner and the apathetic general public continue to be ruled by fear, then the world of V For Vendetta could well be a frightening glimpse into the future. Choose to ignore its political ideology and you'll still be left with an incendiary action thriller, crammed with fascinating characters and eye-candy by the bowlful. Take heed its warning, and it might just free your mind more than you thought a Wachowski brothers movie ever could.

It is November 5th, and the masked vigilante known only as V (Weaving) is addressing the nation, having hijacked an emergency broadcast system. "Both you and I know there's something very wrong with this country," he calmly states to his viewers, and he's not wrong. Britain has given in to the fearmongers and now cowers under the iron fist of High Chancellor Adam Sutler (Hurt), who keeps his people safe by enforcing curfews, outlawing homosexuality and religion and having his populace surrender any personal freedom in the name of national security. Evey Hammond (Portman) is caught outside after the 10:30pm cut-off and is just about to be set upon by government goons when she's saved by our charismatic freedom fighter and is inadvertently entangled in V's world of vengeance. The two form an uneasy relationship at first, but eventually conspire to restore order to the UK by whatever means necessary.

The universe of V From Vendetta has leapt straight from the pages of the Alan Moore graphic novel, although the notoriously cranky author need not have been quite so quick to disown the movie adaptation - this is certainly no League of Extraordinary Gentlemen botch job. In fact, it's a perfect example of exactly how to do justice to a comic book, staying faithful to the story for the main part, while the Matrix trio of the Wachowskis and director McTeigue flesh out the action scenes with their customary flair. Don't confuse it for your nightly episode of Newsnight - V For Vendetta is unashamedly entertaining from start to finish and refuses to get bogged down in morality. Yes, serious issues are under the microscope, but we're talking about a partially insane, knife-wielding revolutionary who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and kicks insane amounts of ass - political dullards are well catered for.

Some might find it a little soon after the July 7th bombings to be entertained by a film about terrorists attacking the UK, but important issues are raised and the movie doesn't flinch from its standpoint - 'evil' is just a point of view. With the benefit of the bigger picture, we can see V is fighting for something he vehemently believes in, a just cause he's willing to die for. Those watching the biased media coverage safe in their houses will swallow the lies that he's a madman, hell bent on destruction and the annihilation of civilisation - one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter after all. Terrorists don't just wake up in the morning and decide to be evil to piss off Jack Bauer - behind every attack, every sacrifice, every explosion is a reason, an idea, a belief. V For Vendetta never suggests that violence is the answer, nor does it claim that it is futile: it's a movie that's brave enough to let you form your own opinion and never dares influence you or tell you what you should think.

Despite spending the entire duration behind his ever-smiling visage, Weaving gives a phenomenal physical performance as V, breathing life into a character that could easily have ended up suffering from Green Goblin Syndrome. His wonderfully distinctive voice and his theatrical get-up combine to make an instantly iconic character, so even if he's not remembered for his verbosity and his vigilance, he'll make a damn good Halloween costume for years to come. Portman is also excellent (although often struggles with a plummy British accent) and consigns those stiff Star Wars performances to the deepest, darkest corners of the universe with a well-rounded and mature performance. Her transition from unwitting accomplice to fully-blown anarchist is believable and smooth - there's no awkward, Vader-esque, "I will do anything you ask, my master" kind-of moments here. Hair or no hair, she's still an incredible performer when she's reading the right script, and the fact that she's not unpleasant to look at certainly won't dampen your enjoyment one bit.

Whatever level you're willing to engage it at, V For Vendetta just doesn't disappoint. Alarmingly verbose to begin with, it nonetheless evens out to be a well-written and intelligent piece of storytelling that never veers into 'Architect' territory and steers clear of soapbox politics and finger pointing. Visually, there are no set-pieces that ignite the imagination in the same way that those in the Matrix trilogy did, but the brief moments of necessary violence are handled with style and panache - V's final slow-motion takedown is one to cherish and you'll feel oddly jubilant as the landmarks of London fall to the tune of Tchaikovsky. A triumph of style and substance, V For Vendetta might not cause anarchy in the UK but it sure as hell isn't afraid to hold the lighter under the blue touch paper in preparation. "People shouldn't be afraid of their governments," reasons the cloaked figure of V, who might as well be speaking directly to the audience. "Governments should be afraid of their people." Mr. Blair and friends would do well to take his advice seriously and pay attention; this may just be a movie, but it contains within an idea, and as we are told, sometimes an idea is all you need to start a revolution.

More:  Action  Thriller  Crackers
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