V for Vendetta

2007-08-13 10:22


It is the not too distant future and Britain cowers beneath the iron grip of an ultra-religious totalitarian regime called "Norsefire". Caught out on the streets after curfew, a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) is about to meet a terrible fate at the hands of the dreaded secret police - the "fingermen". Then, out of nowhere, a mysterious masked figure appears and dispatches her assailants with fluid grace and disturbing ease. Afterwards her urbane and theatrical saviour introduces himself only as "V" (Hugo Weaving). A self-styled modern Guy Fawkes, V explains that his mission is to free Britain from the scourge of Norsefire. Sceptical at first, Evey watches in amazement as V blows up the Old Bailey - London's historic law courts. Though she does not yet realise it, Evey is now part of an awesomely complex plan that will shake Britain to its very foundations.


On one hand V for Vendetta is among the most interesting and thought provoking films of the year. On the other it is a cold, remote piece of political commentary dressed up in a pretty package. The end result is stylish, stimulating and frequently enjoyable but also deeply flawed.

The film's strongest point is its intriguing ideas. It addresses many questions that both mainstream America and the rest of the world are grappling with. Questions like what makes someone a terrorist as opposed to a freedom fighter? When is intervention by the state necessary for safety, and when is it merely an attack on individual freedom? What is the end result of allowing fanaticism - political, religious or otherwise - to blossom unchecked?

Though these ideas seem both daring and highly topical, it's worth noting that they were all lifted wholesale from the extraordinary graphic novel (also named "V For Vendetta") which written way back in 1983 by the great Alan Moore. What's more, the ideas in the movie only represent a watered down fraction of Moore's vision. The Wachowski brothers (who adapted the screenplay) originally included many more of Moore's original ideas, but were forced by producer Joel Silver (of Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and Matrix fame) to tone it down.

Thankfully a large enough part of the spirit of Moore's original work remains intact, and even in reduced form it is enough to lift the movie well above the mediocrity of mainstream Hollywood. Still, fans of the novel will lament the toning (and dumbing) down of Moore's fiery purity. The famously antagonistic and uncompromising Moore has disowned the project, leaving the artist David Lloyd to take all the responsibility (and flak).

Matrix fans may also be disappointed by the film's talky nature and its slower, more meditative pace. Vendetta is emphatically not a "bullet time" saturated martial arts extravaganza like the Wachowski brothers' previous films. But, though the action set pieces may be few and far between, they are well executed and quite satisfying. These sequences have a more fluid theatricality than the relentless kineticism of the Matrix films. This is a credit to director James McTeigue - a newcomer to feature films. His years in advertising have given him a clear eye for what looks good in a scene.

The sequences also echo the film's excellent overall visual design. Some fans of the graphic novel have complained that the Hollywood slickness is at odds with the original's grubby, quirky and distinctly British character. However, since David Lloyd himself is happy with the result, this criticism is a little hard to accept. Purity of vision aside, Vendetta's design has a verve and a panache that many similar films aspire to and few attain.

The performances are less successful. Hugo Weaving (aka Agent Smith from The Matrix) does his best as the title character, but his performance often feels cold and remote. This isn't helped by the fact that, due to the mask he wears throughout the film, Weaving was forced to re-record in his dialogue after the fact. The normally excellent Natalie Portman is no help in this case. She and Weaving can never seem to get into a rhythm, and frequently misjudge the emotional beats.

The supporting cast are more successful. John Hurt has a marvellous time as the maniacal dictator, ranting and raving with great gusto. Stephen Fry is always a pleasure to watch, and he brings a calm urbanity to every scene he graces. Stephen Rea, playing a dedicated chief inspector, has been better but he gets the job done.

Overall we have to acknowledge that V for Vendetta is streets ahead of most commercial films. Despite its emotional distance and uncertain rhythm, the film remains both enjoyable and intriguing. It's just a pity that the film couldn't have adhered more closely to the truly extraordinary vision of the graphic novel.

- Alistair Fairweather

In V for Vendetta the Wachowski brothers explore that immortal question: what separates a terrorist from a freedom fighter? The result plays like The Matrix...for grownups.

Shameen Yacoob 2006/03/25 1:26 PM
MS Brilliant! I loved it! Beautifully made. LOved Ntalie Portman and "V". Definately!
Shameen Yacoob 2006/03/25 1:27 PM
MS beautiful Film. Loved the Performances! Definately!
graham 2006/03/25 6:17 PM
Kudakwashe Shereni 2006/03/27 3:17 PM
V for Vendetta its a five star winner on the international scene, second from the XXX Files The Matrix
V Fan 2006/03/27 6:10 PM
V Great Movie! YIP!
Werner Strodike 2006/04/06 6:26 PM
V 4 Vendatta Great movie, one of the better movies I have seen in a really long time, it deserves a 4 star rating. It was real original idea and well pulled off. you wont b sorry
fatimah 2006/05/11 3:49 AM
Sad Well what can i say, what could have been a good movie is completely spoilt by a wrong casting choice. Natalie Portman has been given acolades that does not befit her acting, if you can call it that. Wooden, uncharismatic, just plain feeble. A grand idea for a movie and an interesting view of politics/government, one that Miss Portman would never be able to feel in a thousand years. Mystic River
Patricia 2006/08/31 6:02 PM
V for Vendetta It was a successful movie because we, as citizens, can relate to it in most aspects, in most countries around the world. An eye opener to some, everyday life to others.
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