V for Vendetta (2005)
V for Vendetta is a 2005 film from James McTeigue, adapted by the Wachowski brothers from the 80’s graphic novel and comic series penned by Alan Moore and drawn by David Lloyd. Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman and Stephen Rea, the cast is chock full of a bevy of Brit bad-guy all-stars. The story is set in an unhappy, totalitarian Britain of the near future. V (Weaving) enters as a masked super-survivor of the regime’s biological weapons experimentation on political prisoners, intent on upsetting the established order with bombs and counter-propaganda. In saving Evey Hammond (Portman) from rape by the Security Services, V adopts her as his immediate audience. He teaches her to face her own fears as he challenges the public complacency to the mean-spirited nutters that rule them. Seen always masked, Weaving’s delivery of the titular V is through the wonderful dialogue, delivered in a gentlemanly, tragi-calm voice which stands out against the hum of perennial yes-men amongst the supporting characters. Compared to Weaving’s devilish diction, Portman struggles with her accent but does portray well Evey’s conversion from a delicate, conformist rose into a tougher, fearless muse to V’s revenge.
Rea’s quiet detective and his earnest sidekick (Rupert Graves) plod gently towards the conclusion supported by Stephen Fry, Sinead Cusack and John Standing. Tim Piggott-Smith is great as creepy Creedy, the government’s thumbscrew specialist. Gazing over all in shades-of-1984, comes the milk-toting, maniacal leader, Suttler (John Hurt). The occasional villain – like Allam’s corpulent government mouthpiece, Prothero – appeared more comical than corrupt, but the depravity and cruelty that they represent comes through later in the story. Fans of other Wachowski fare might see some parallels with the Matrix in the theme of control. Visually the film depicts a Britain under fascism as grey, controlled, fenced and lacking in any warmth – emotional or otherwise – a nod to the original story’s Nazi inspirations. This numbness is punctuated by V’s rhetoric, music, fireworks and the infeasible, dance-like timing of the explosions in his demolition acts. Look for the startling shot of his bloodied face when TV performer Dietrich is roughly arrested after producing a Benny Hill inspired parody of the Dear Leader.
The message may have moved on from that of the original comic series; the film is as much about revitalising values of tolerance and love, as it is about nudging awake an audience to the dangers of leaving their governance to fate or apathy. Implied criticism of real-world governments and/or policy (US or otherwise) can be seen, although the apparent comparison of characters by some to US political and media figures totally passed me by as a Brit. I found myself wishing for the next stream of monologue from Weaving’s V. Portman’s slightly stiff Evey was slow to win my sympathy but it dawned on me that her portrayal represented the cowering, fearful public that V so wanted to reach. The story did capture me and, whilst the pace wavered slightly, kept me watching. After the curtain came down, the film’s message resonated enough to make me want to watch again a few days later. Entertaining, thoughtful and one for the collection.
“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant and vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”
– V’s introduction to Evey