V for Vendetta is the latest offering from writers Andy and Larry Wachowski (of the Matrix Trilogy fame) and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Originally released in the early eighties, V for Vendetta tells the story of the enigmatic anti-hero “V” (Hugo Weaving) and his battle against the stronghold of the totalitarian style government that has encumbered the people of Great Britain.
One of those people is Evey (Natalie Portman), the daughter of political freedom fighters and employee at the main news and television centre in Britain. Evey is rescued by the knife-wielding V from a life-and-death situation and is immediately captivated with her rescuer. Their bond grows over the course of the film as Evey discovers the true nature of V’s personal and public vendetta against their government.
V’s facade is a tribute to Guy Fawkes – who in 1605 was discovered in the tunnels below Parliament with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, but his attempt to blow up the building in response to a tyrannical government was foiled. This event coins the film’s catchphrase – “Remember, remember the 5th of November” – setting the precedent when V promises to destroy Parliament on November 5th in 2020.
Evey and V are exposed as terrorists through a clever spin on national television and are now on the run from Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea). Finch has been directly ordered by the ruthless Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt) to stop V in his tracks by getting to Evey, the only person noticeably able to contact V. Evey takes refuge with Deitrich (Stephen Fry), a charismatic TV personality who appears to be hiding more than his oppressive government will allow.
Through the course of the film, Evey’s allegiance to V is tested, as is Finch’s to his governments. V sets off on an agenda to get even with all his past captors, who all hold highly prominent roles within their fascistic regime. The truth becomes clearer and the tension in the film begins to rise, building up to the spectacular climax, attuned to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony – holding both symbolic and tensing value.
V for Vendetta can be read as a political thriller of a multi-faceted nature, which leaves the viewer open to interpretation of the films events. The film can be disturbing in the sense of glamorizing terrorist activities on a grand scale. The filmmakers get away with such sensitive themes through the comic-book feel of the movie and the suspenseful score, as we are made to feel empathy for the films protagonists.
The performances in V for Vendetta are superb throughout. Weaving and Portman have great on-screen chemistry, even though V remains masked over the whole film. Weaving manages to give particular character and emotion through assertive voice to a faceless hero, while Portman is excellent in bringing out fear, strength and confidence in her character. Rea is the film’s conscience, stuck between the right and wrongs of his job, he is later disenchanted with the discoveries he makes about his government. Fry and Hurt also put in respectable performances as the likeable Deitrich and the hateable Sutler respectively.
Like in the Matrix, V for Vendetta uses superbly created special effects to convey some highly graphic images, but it does not rely solely on this. V for Vendetta is more character and plot driven from the start. The film is meticulously written and shot to capture the most possible effect from each shot. It covers controversial themes in a time where such topics can cause outrage, but manages to pull it off sublimely. This is one of those movies that leaves you thinking when you leave the cinema, and is probably worth seeing again to get your head around everything you just saw. V for Vendetta is a highly ambitious and articulate film and I highly recommend its viewing.
All of V’s dialogue was dubbed. Initially, a mask was designed with a small microphone inside, and another mic was designed to sit along Hugo Weaving’s hair line, but neither worked very well.