Graphic novels are a mixture of cartoon and literature. They tend to be melodramatic and action packed and possibly have superhuman properties. "I am therefore I fly" is a popular catchphrase; "I love therefore I suffer" less so.

V (Australian actor Hugo Weaving, sounding like Ralph Fiennes, by way of the RSC) in V For Vendetta doesn't do mid-air stunts. He's a love sufferer, or becomes one after saving little Evey (Natalie Portman) from a gang bang after curfew in London's dark city in the future years of a malevolent dictatorship.

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This is Phantom/Beast/Hunchback territory, with Orwellian touches that are less than subtle. V wears a lurid Guy Fawkes mask throughout, which becomes increasingly annoying because when you can't see expressions, you can't fully empathise.

It is surprising and possibly heartening that George Dubya's (war on) terror squads have not confiscated the film, nor thrown the Wachowski brothers (script) and James McTeigue (director) into Guantanamo, because V For Vendetta glorifies terrorism, except that Chancellor Sutler (a permanently pissed off John Hurt) is Britain's answer to Sadam Hussein, which makes V's bombing campaign not so much an atrocity as a democratic expression of freedom in a subjugated nation, locked down by a brutal fascist regime (maybe).

The plot keeps pinching itself to avoid veering into that area of gookly gobble ("Are you a Muslim?" "No, I work in television"), from which there is no escape but madness. The character of V, not to mention his apparent wealth and organisational skills - rebuilding a defunct underground railway over a period of 10 years without the authorities getting wind of it - is as daft as a brush, even by Marvel standards.

The victim of a secret government experimental medical centre, he was hideously burnt in the explosion that destroyed the facility and allowed him to escape. Since then, vengeance is the name of the game, as he goes about murdering everyone remotely involved in his incarceration. After that, it's the big time, first the Old Bailey (boom!) and secondly the Houses of Parliament.

Evey is the innocent ingenue, who becomes involved purely by chance, although her (dead) parents were political activists, and spends the movie on the run, or being tortured (v weird episode), or looking scared. For an actor of Portman's quality, this is pure masochism.

The supporting cast, which includes police investigators (Stephen Rea, Rupert Graves), a TV show host (Stephen Fry), a naughty bishop (John Standing) and the evil head of the secret police/security services (Tim Pigott-Smith) perform with straight faces, which, when you consider the script, is quite an achievement.

Those that know say that the Wachowskis' adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's original graphic novel is remarkably faithful. Does this put the blame on Moore/Lloyd, or McTeigue, for not understanding the difference between film and comic book?

Reviewed on: 17 Mar 2006
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V For Vendetta packshot
In the near future, Britain is a fascist state into which a mysterious, masked terrorist dares to fight fear with flames
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Director: James McTeigue

Writer: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves, Ben Miles, Robert Allam, John Standing, Natasha Wightman, Sinead Cusack, Eddie Marsan

Year: 2005

Runtime: 132 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA/Germany

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