V for Vendetta

Movie Review >>

V for Vendetta Photo

I think I really need to stop watching movie trailers altogether. While arriving early for a feature so I can catch the previews and get pumped for what will be coming soon to a theater near me is one of my most favorite parts of the moviegoing experience, it tends to lead to me being underwhelmed when I finally see the films that I had so badly wanted to see just months before. V for Vendetta definitely fits that example. V is a solid action film, full of gorgeous sets and costumes (Natalie Portman looks particularly beautiful in this film), and packed with some great performances from British actors, including Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Stephen Rea and Ben Miles of Coupling fame.

V for Vendetta poster
V for Vendetta
(Warner Bros.)
Rated: R
starstarstar (out of 4)
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V for Vendetta takes place some 20 or so years in the future, when America has collapsed due to war and disease, and Great Britain is the reigning superpower it once was. However, in the future, the government has complete and total control over its people. There are curfews. Certain music has been banned, along with films, art, the Qur’an, sculptures, you get the picture. The government hates, and will imprison anyone who is “different.” If it sounds like we’ve gone back to Nazi Germany, we may as well have.

V beings with the reading of the Guy Fawkes poem, “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November,” as we watch Gunpowder Plot unfold. We soon meet V (played by Hugo Weaving), who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and seems to be a little bit Batman, a little bit Phantom of the Opera. He saves the heroine of our piece, Evey (Coincidence? He thinks not.), when he saves her from some Finger Men (Britain’s equivalent to the SS). As most girls do when they are saved by strange masked men, Evey becomes very taken with V. She soon learns of his plan to finish what Guy Fawkes started on November 5th, 1605. V wants the entire country to awake from their zombie like states under the British government and break free from the oppression and fear that they have been trapped by for years. The film is full of strong performances by all of its actors (though, Natalie Portman’s accent grew a little bit annoying at times). Perhaps the weakest of all performances was Weaving’s as V. It may not have been his fault, though. As Evey finds, it is quite difficult to connect to a man whose eyes you can never look into. The release of V was originally slated for last fall, but was postponed due to the London bombings in July of last year, and its hard not to see why. Some of the most violent scenes take place in old Underground stations.

In theater, the “world of the play” is often discussed and sketched out before one piece of clothing is stitched, or one piece of set is constructed. The world of V was perfect. The oppression was palpable. Even when the sun was shining, no one was very truly happy, because they couldn’t fully be themselves, not even the members of the government. They were always being watched. Some of the best parts of the film were in the small details (including a Warhol-esque painting of the Chancellor called, “God Save the Queen” and a jukebox playing the likes of Julie London and Cat Power). Natalie Portman was exceptionally dressed for most of the film, and V’s costume was impeccable. There was one small Matrix-esque gimmick that was used, and while it wasn’t offensive by any means, it did pull me out of the film for just a moment and reminded me of whose movie I was watching.

V is a good movie, but at times it can feel heavy handed. It is based on the graphic novel of the same name and was originally a response to the politics Margaret Thatcher. However, in today’s political climate, you can only imagine what the filmmakers were thinking. Yes, it is important to remember that freedom is precious and so is the world’s safety, but at what price? Are there freedoms we must surrender to the government in order to feel safe? If the answer is yes, where do we draw the line, and more importantly, where will the government draw the line? One of the biggest problems with applying V‘s political message to today’s political climate (Bush, Blair, etc.), is that its so been done. Yes, Hollywood is full of Liberals and yes, Bush sucks, and there are a lot of Americans who apparently need to wake up and smell the dummy. But you know what? We know. We get it. Move on. When you see V, and you should see it, enjoy it for its beauty, its action, and its fun (serious message or not, it is fun to watch). Try to ignore its politics. You’ll be better off.