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  V for Vendetta Remember, RememberBuy this film here.
Year: 2006
Director: James McTeigue
Stars: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam, Ben Miles, Sinéad Cusack, Natasha Wightman, John Standing, Eddie Marsan, Clive Ashbourne, Emma Field-Rayner, Ian Burfield, Mark Phoenix
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Rating:  6 (from 4 votes)
Review: The time is the near future and the world has sunk into chaos, with only the United Kingdom of Great Britain holding fast against the tide of anarchy and violence outside its shores. However, Britain has problems of its own, because its capital, London, exists in a quarantine zone due to a deadly virus, and its inhabitants live under the iron grip of the totalitarian government, complete with night time curfews and any rebellious citizens spirited away under cover of darkness to concentration camps. In the midst of this is Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a researcher for the single television network BTN, and tonight she has accepted an invitation to see her boss, Gordon Deitrich (Stephen Fry), so she hurries through the streets, trying to avoid being seen... unsuccessfully.

Comic book writer Alan Moore's V for Vendetta was one of his more celebrated works, and film directors Larry Wachowski and Andy Wachowski were big fans, so much so that they adapted the work for the big screen. It seems an unlikely project for an American studio in the 2000s, as it does celebrate a terrorist as its hero (here not quite as ambiguous as in the source material), and even relates with understanding, even acceptance, the whys and wherefores of the justification of such acts of violence. A dissatisfied Moore had by this time refused to let his name be added to the credits of films of his work, so only the series' artist David Lloyd is mentioned in the titles and the reaction to V was mixed.

Such weighty subject matter, concerning as it does freedom opposed with fascism, is given an appropriately sombre treatment, but this film becomes something of a chore to sit through. As in the original, it bases its rebellion on the attempt by Guy Fawkes to destroy the Houses of Parliament in 1605, the foiling of which is celebrated in Britain to this day, although the event actually has its roots in a pagan bonfire festival stretching back centuries. The innovation is that V (Hugo Weaving in a Fawkes mask he never removes) is not raising echoes of the execution of the conspirators, but championing their efforts as perfectly reasonable.

We first meet V when he saves Evey from the secret police, or Fingermen, who stop her on her way to Deitrich's house and threaten to arrest her and worse when the hero intervenes and kills her assailants, leaving her bewildered, especially when he invites her to accompany him to witness the destruction of the Old Bailey. When she goes to work the next day, V shows up again and hijacks the airwaves, telling the populace that he plans to overthrow the government. The police arrive swiftly, but V confuses them and manages to escape, taking Evey with him when not only does she knock out a lawman pointing a gun at him, but when it becomes clear she is being sought in connection with his activities.

Like any good superhero, V has his own base of command, which he has filled with banned artefacts. Evey is willing to go along with him, but is eyeing the exit, not really trusting him as his plan to kill off a group of high-ranking people who have made him, and the country, suffer is put into operation. This would have been better handled with a lighter touch as the misery of the situation translates into a crushing earnestness that drains the life out of the story. They keep fairly close to Moore and Lloyd's storyline and rendering, at least the main twist is still there, but action is thin on the ground and the oppression against the characters doesn't enjoy a sophisticated refutation, more of a vague "people have the power" message backed up with the Houses of Parliament going "boom". It's a nice try, but fairly deadening, rather than inspiring, to watch and simply by wondering what happens next after the ending makes the whole thing fall apart. Music by Dario Marianelli.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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