Thursday, 8 June 2017

Movie Review: V For Vendetta (2005)


A dystopian political conspiracy thriller, V For Vendetta is a satisfyingly complex comic adaptation, delivered with plenty of vigour and bold style.

A near-future England is ruled by a fascist anti-immigration homophobic government under High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt). The rest of the world has disintegrated into chaos with a civil war raging in the United States. On Guy Fawkes night in London, a mysterious masked man known only as V (Hugo Weaving) initiates a surprise bombing of the Old Bailey, takes over the British Television Network and invites citizens to join him a year later at the demolition of the Houses of Parliament.

V's actions are partially witnessed by Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a young BTN employee, and he takes her into his hideout, a cavern filled with historical artwork. Head of New Scotland Yard Eric Finch (Stephen Rea) sets out to investigate, identify and capture V and Evey, while Sutler's head of security Peter Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith) favours more repressive measures to put a stop to V's plans. With the big night approaching Finch gets closer to uncovering V's background, and in the process discovers a mammoth conspiracy at the origins of England's descent into dictatorship.

Directed by James McTeigue and co-written by the Wachowskis as an adaptation of a limited comic book series, V For Vendetta threads the needle to park its loyalties with counter-revolutionaries, bombers, and freedom fighters all in the name of a fight for justice against an oppressive regime. A film that remarkably gains in relevance with the passing years, V For Vendetta is brimming with plot and characters, 132 breathless minutes counting down to one defining midnight.

The movie almost suffers from too much going on, but it's all relevant, and incendiary themes abound. V launches a one-man campaign of terrorism, hoping to reignite the passion of a nation. Chancellor Sutler spreads his hateful anti-immigration and homophobic poison through propagandist television talking heads, including  the "Voice of London" Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam), all in the name of protecting the country against foreign turmoil. The Stockholm Syndrome is at the heart of the relationship between Evey and V.  A secret bioweapons program, human experiments and the creation of false crises are gradually revealed as dark plots at the heart of societal transformation, and even within a totalitarian regime, there are rivalries to be exploited.

In lesser hands the story could have spiraled out of control, but McTeigue allows the threads to intertwine with reasonably effortless beauty. V, Evey and Finch each get the necessary time to evolve and contribute, the film gaining in power as it glides towards a stunning climax.

Aesthetically V For Vendetta is a perfect comic adaptation, centred on a masked crusader and surrounding him with a grim city suffering through its darkest days. The film remains grounded in characters and real world physics and avoids ruinous excessive special effects, and even the grand ending is more about people than events.

Hugo Weaving dominates with his silky booming voice from behind a mask, a literate poet crusader unafraid to destroy in order to rebuild. Natalie Portman plays Evey as a victim and an inspiration, a young woman destined to first witness and then play a role at the crossroads of history.

Despite some oversaturation at the margins, V For Vendetta is rich in both spirit and provocation.






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