For a film that has only been around since 2005, V for Vendetta sure has a lot of exposure on the web, indeed this site alone has six entries and three reviews. As such, most probably know what to expect when they spin the disc and no new review on my part will change that. My response to this is to concentrate on the disc technical aspects and only give a brief overview to the synopsis.
V for Vendetta started life, in the eighties, as a comic book story written and illustrated by Alan Moore and David Lloyd respectively. It was a scathing attack on right wing governments and pushed their politics to the inevitable totalitarianisic conclusion, in essence an Orwellian 'Big Brother' existence. A nation ruled by fear. It goes to show how forward thinking these writers truly were, when you consider how the news is portrayed now, there is a climate of fear prevalent throughout each and every story; the oft derided Fox news being the prime example. The power of information has always been coveted; history is written by the winners; how powerful then to rewrite history as it happens to continually manipulate the viewing public by censoring or just plain lying to cover or consume the truth. Even more frightening when you consider that such manipulation continues to happen today. Impartiality, it seems, is a luxury that governments do not want.
V was a response to the everyman standing up for what he believed was wrong; in essence a physical embodiment of justice. And how delicious that Moore chose to colour him with vengeance too, whilst the greater plan might be to bring down a corrupt government and give power back to the people (“People should not fear their Government, the Government should fear its people”) but within that there is a burning desire to right the individual wrongs wrought upon him. This is no one dimensional crusader. V is vicious and unhinged for all his eloquence. His eroding of Evey's will in a mock up of his own incarceration shows just how far he is willing to go to justify the end. If V is the wake up call, then Evey is the sleeping civilisation, in essence the public. Constantly frightened and unable to fend for herself, Evey's own fear stems from her background; if V wasn't born to vengeance and was in fact made, then so too was Evey. And whilst their respective torture does indeed break them free of their fear, enabling them to stand up and see right from wrong, Evey's own realisation is to see V for what he is and what he stands for as two separate ideas; this the real awakening.
Natalie Portman plays Evey, it's a return to her angst ridden teenage turmoil parts that she so nailed early in her career and I'm please to say that she may have aged but has lost none of it. Her portrayal of fear to resolve is wonderfully done, perhaps the best performance I've seen her in. Witness her hiding under the bed as Deitrich (Stephen Fry) is black bagged in front of her; see the realisation and the memory of earlier events run through her eyes then compare to her breakdown at the knowledge of what V has done to her, you can see her heart bursting through her chest at the hurt and finally her resolve at the end of the film, she knows what has to be done and her eyes betray it. V, himself, is played by Hugo Weaving, and being masked for the entire run of the movie has to convey all his emotion through his voice and body. It is no mean feat and Weaving pulls it off with aplomb; he underplays his movements, no wild arm gesturing here, its small and precise and his voice adds a weight to the movements. The only facial expressions are with altered lighting on the rigid mask, surprisingly effective when put together with his performance. Another actor worth noting is Stephen Rea as the erstwhile Inspector Finch, a character tasked to seek out V and in doing so goes through his own journey, of sorts, and begins to question his role, his government and eventually himself. Rea, whose accent does waver a little does a tremendous job of portraying the worry and indecision when faced with the revealing truth of his government, again, underplayed in a very 'less is more' approach his story is one that is easily understandable and identifiable to anyone that has come across a secret and is unsure how to proceed.
First time director James McTeigue had already worked closely as first assistant director with screenwriters Andy and Larry Wachowski on the Matrix and its sequels. He, together with cinematographer Adrian Biddle, a veteran of many action films, create a very stark black and white (red) look that is somewhat reminiscent of the comic book roots and at odds with the grey exhibited by the characters natures. It works extremely well and serves to reinforce the judicial lines.
I found V for Vendetta to be a terrific film, excellent performances woven together with a clever script under the umbrella of an edge of the seat story. A terrific comic book adaptation up there with the best.
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