V For Vendetta

On a dark and silent night, a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman), treads carefully through the streets of London unaware of the direction her life is about to take. As an attractive young lady, sneaking out of her home after curfew is filled with peril, especially when she is confronted by a gang of local thugs who happen to work for the government. Despite her protests, the men set up Evey only to be confronted by a masked figure.

The masked figure quickly dispatches the assailants and offers to escort Evey to safety. Despite being scared, Evey does accompany the figure to a rooftop where she is treated to a spectacular explosion set to music.

Thus begins V for Vendetta a film that mixes “The Phantom of the Opera” “Beauty and the Beast” and ?” to create a gothic love story and biting social commentary about the dangers of governmental control and censorship in a society gone awry.

In London of the near future, it is learned that a series of terrorist attacks have left thousands dead which resulted in stricter governmental controls and intrusions into privacy and lifestyles. Those who did not conform nor meet expectations often vanished never to be heard from again. Such was the case of Evey’s parents who decided to protest governmental policies and soon found themselves beaten and whisked away in the night.

Behind all of the oppression is a man named Adam Sutler (John Hurt), a monomaniacal leader who rules with an iron fist and an extreme agenda that he has manipulated to make himself and unopposed ruler of the nation.

While most of the population lives in fear of Sutler and his men, there is one who does not, a mysterious masked figure named V (Hugo Weaving), who dons a Guy Fawkes mask in tribute to the man who centuries ago attempted to destroy Parliament. When V is able to temporarily gain control of the television network for the government, he is able to broadcast his message to the people that the time has come to take back their lives and society and stop living in fear. Towards this end, V pledges to the masses that he will destroy Parliament in 1 year and that the people should gather to watch the destruction unfold.

This bold proclamation causes Sutler to stop at nothing to capture V and he tasks his Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea), to locate V. Since Evey worked at the television station and was observed helping V on a security monitor, Finch decides to locate Evey and force her to reveal the locale of the mysterious vigilante.

This task proves difficult as V has taken Evey into his protection and forces her to live in his luxurious yet secluded home in order to avoid the police forces.

It is during this time that Evey learns that V is a study in contrast. On one hand he is a very sophisticated person with a taste for the arts, culture, and a desire to see people free to live their lives as they desire.

During this time V also kills top members of the political party and with the discovery of each new victim, he becomes an even bigger target of a very irate Sutler.

All of which culminates in a race against the clock for V to complete his plan and exact his revenge for past wrongdoings done to him which propels the film to its climatic finale.

While the film is an interesting and at times enjoyable film it is hampered in some ways by a marketing program where early trailers showed the film to be an action filled romp. The truth is there is about 15-20 minutes of action in the films nearly 2hr and 10 minute run time which allows the majority of the film to be spent on the interaction between V and Evey.

While this is interesting and does bring in elements of “Phantom” and “Beauty” as I mentioned earlier, it is at the sacrifice of what I think are important factors. For example we learn a bit about why V is on his vendetta but serious questions from that are not answered. We do not learn the full what, where and why, on his situation. I am trying hard to avoid spoilers here so suffice it to say there are some very important questions about what was done to him, how he survived and so on that need to be answered but are not.

The action sequences though few and far between are well staged and Weaving and Portman have a great chemistry with one another and do make interesting and compelling characters.

The main strength of the film is the message that people need to be aware of what is going on around them and not be so willing to accept everything they are told at face value. There is a real sense of counter-culture with the film as the prevalent theme of question and if needed defy authority permeates the film.

The script written by the Wachowski brothers of The Matrix trilogy fame has chosen to tone down the gimmicky of bullet time effects and instead focus on a character driven drama with a message and it is one that resounds loudly and clearly.

4 stars out of 5