Rated R (for strong violence and some language.)
2 hrs, 12 min.
written by: The Wachowski Brothers (based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore)
produced by: Grant Hill, Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski, & Larry Wachowski,
directed by: James McTeigue
Back in 1987, I remember seeing the original comic book issues of V for Vendetta at the comic shop I would frequent in high school. I didn't know too much about Alan Moore's 12-issue maxi-series except that I thought it was mysterious and had some cool art by David Lloyd. I recall seeing a cover of one particular issue worm's-eye view looking up a brick wall and seeing a dark figure with a flowing cloak running along or jumping off the wall. I wanted to know who that person was. I found out he was a British vigilante/freedom fighter named "V" and then I wanted to know what his "Vendetta" was. It appears Evey Hammond feels the same way.
The year is 2020. America is left decimated by a plague. London is under the totalitarian grip of a police state government that enforces nightly curfews complete with surveillance cameras, sirens, and loud speakers on every corner. The local news is cleverly spun to make the citizens feel rest assured that "England prevails." Every part of the media is controlled and every event is spun for the benefit of keeping the public in fear and the government in power. Until one man decides to fight back. He is the shadowy figure whose identity is unknown. He wears a mask frozen with a permanent smile resembling Guy Fawkes. He introduces himself to Evey (Natalie Portman) one night in an alley after he rescues her from a gang of police agents known as "Fingerman", her would-be rapists.
He is known only as "V".
As much as Eve is scared of V (Hugo Weaving) she is also convincingly forced to join him. He is polite and to the point with Evey. He sees something in her. Possibly a connection. There is some mysterious sense of security that V's presence gives Evey. It seems strange but makes sense once we see her back story as she tells V of her harsh and traumatic childhood. Of course, V's got his story as well that slowly unfolds (rather well) as we see just who will specifically will reap the vengeance of his vendetta. One aspect of his mission in his rebellious crusade is to send a message to British ruler Sutler (John Hurt) and his tyranny. Sutler appears in these fascist posters and media programs to the people and on an IMAX-size screen to all the government lackeys that report to him. The other aspect would be to remind people that ideas can still have strength. There's more to the world than just blindly following the government and media as they spin what they want you to know as truth. That people can still act upon their ideas of freedom and liberation.
The movie is dark and stylishly visual. It's violent because of the way the world has become. Peaceful demonstrations are a thing of the past and just wouldn't work in this world. It pulls you in just as V pulls Evey in with his muffled yer alluring voice in all its enunciated cleverness. V tells Evey that "sometimes you can use violence for good," as he admits that, yes, men were killed in his methodically-planned attacks. We see V's world and actions through Evey's eyes from the beginning as they witness his "orchestrated" destruction of British landmarks like the Old Baily courthouse on November 5th. Is he a freedom-fighter or an anarchist? What's his agenda for his vendetta and how is it that he knows so many words with the letter "V"?
Besides Portman and Weaving, there are some supporting roles that flesh out some side plots. Investigating V's attacks for Sutler are Finch (Stephen Rea) and his partner Dominic (Rupert Graves). Both characters are more fleshed-out in the graphic novel but the actors portray enough of their character's essence successfully. Finch is world-weary and loyal to England and gradually less loyal to the law whereas Dominic is more by the book. One of Evey's only other confidants is a friendly older man, Dietrich ( Steven Fry) who works at the station BNT, British New Television she works at. There's also a character named Valerie (Natasha Wightman) who is important to both V and Evey in a dramatic way. All of these various roles help give the world of the film its character and adds a reality to this future, albeit a grim one.
Critics are saying alotta things about this movie. Some compare the relationship that V and Evey have to a kinda "Phantom of the Opera" style while others dismiss it as a film that "promotes terrorism." I could see the "Phantom" meets "The Matrix" comparison, but the terrorism stance is a bit misleading. This is a work of political science fiction with a alotta dramatized action and suspense. It's not based on a true story like the terrorist acts seen in Speilberg's "Munich". Was Speilberg promoting terrorism? Some said that he did. The point is to look at the perspective of those committing terrorist acts. We don't like to cuz it's easier to write them off as evil but alotta times we should. Once we see the environment V and Evey live in and all that they have lived through thus far, it is apparent that they don't see these "acts of terrorism" as anything more than "declarations of independence." Remember the Boston Tea Party? It's a celebrated historic event now but I'm sure back then some may have considered it an "act of terrorism". I'm not condoning violent acts. But, I'm just saying that through certain perspectives you can understand them.
Director James McTeigue has experience working with Portman, Weaving, and The Wachowski brothers. He was the 1st Assist. Director on the Matrix trilogy and on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. So, once may thing that he was handed the directing reigns through association. Maybe that had something to do with it but he surely showed he's capable. What this movie owes its look to though is the amazing cinematographer Andrew Biddle (Aliens, The Princess Bride Thelma & Louise, & the Mummy) who really captures the look and feel of the graphic novel. Biddle died on December 5th, 2005 and was never able to see the movie released. At the end of the film there is an honorary mention to him and rightly so.
Moore has disassociated himself from this film as he has his other adaptations ("From Hell" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen") and confirmed himself as a disgruntled genius writer. I guess he's entitled, it's his baby. Despite some plot holes which is bound to happen in any novel to film translation, the film delivers very well. I wanna see it again just to pick up other nuances about this futuristic world. It'll be the number one movie in it's first weekend due to the ads promoting it as some kinda new "Matrix-type" movie. Once that all washes over I'm hoping the film has legs and people see the messages of freedom, vengeance, and rebirth that the film has. Their not necessarily "right" messages but their enough to make you think for yourself....much like Evey had to.