V For Vendetta


Reviewed by: Chris

V For Vendetta
"The film's weakness is that it fails to convey any sense of reality, whether as a believable future society, a symbol of modern day ills, or a political thriller."

V For Vendetta throws together a remarkable melange of elements, bringing them together in an attempt to be overtly political. We have a dystopian future, an England ruled by a Hitler-lite version of the worst of Blair and Thatcher's governments (multiplied to a horrifying degree); a slightly crazy Guy Fawkes figure, who is conducting a vendetta against those who kept him in a detention centre; a mild-mannered heroine, Evey, who is almost gang raped at the hands of corrupt government thugs and a rather lovable Stephen Fry playing a closet homosexual TV producer.

What was originally a graphic novel, updating an Orwellian tale of revolt against an authoritarian government to the Eighties, has become a movie that updates the same themes to the present day. There's mention of rendition, an all-male cabinet that hearkens only to its leader, extensive use of "spin", people detained without trial, secret police putting hoods over people's heads Guantanamo-style and, most importantly, the theme of "terrors that we all face" as an excuse for government clampdowns and erosion of freedoms.

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For people pulling their hair out over the antics of Bush and Blair, V For Vendetta must seem like great fun in the true liberal tradition. Indeed, there's a very intelligent film to be made here - but this isn't it.

In one scene, Evey (Natalie Portman) is about to be abused to the extent that she will wish she had never been born. The masked and near-invincible V appears, slays her attackers and treats her to a barrage of alliteration, in which whole paragraphs use words starting with the letter V. Thankful for her deliverance, she is wondering if she has been rescued by a mental case, as V demonstrates some of his pre-arranged demolition jobs, set to music.

As terrorists go, he's thoughtful, kind, respectful and artistic. Yet any considered analysis of the film gives us little help in deciding whether he is a true hero, saving the nation, or just someone with a heavy personal vendetta that might have the side effect of getting rid of the bad guys.

V's hero, Guy Fawkes, was not a liberator, even though he wanted to blow up parliament (as does V), He was a Catholic dissident who wanted to destroy the Protestant aristocracy by blowing up the House of Lords and killing the reformer King James I. V wants to overthrow the government, not because it is bad, but because it has hurt him (and his family) personally, and is quite happy to murder extravagantly and with a certain panache. The two aims do overlap, however. and he realises Evey must play a crucial part as the representative of a more regular society.

The (Matrix) Wachowski Brothers, who wrote the screenplay, indulge their love of literary association by referencing Shakespeare and the Count of Monte Cristo extensively. The use of colour is striking, jumping from violent red and black to smudgy warm interiors that contain artistic treasures, or the white utilitarian rooms of plebeian offices.

Portman's acting is tolerable, but the film's weakness is that it fails to convey any sense of reality, whether as a believable future society, a symbol of modern day ills, or a political thriller. We are left with the Watchowskis' portmanteau of assorted skills thrown together in an inadequate script and central characters that add up barely as well as the Joker from Batman, but with the added baggage of trying to ride the crest of a left-wing political wave, without having done the necessary training.

Bereft of its pretensions, V For Vendetta is just about acceptable for fans of the adapted graphic novel, but otherwise fails to rise above the mid water mark for a night's viewing. Like Superman before him, V is a hero who is portrayed as physically and emotionally emasculated, unable to have normal sexual relations, genetically modified with super strength and near invulnerability - a comic book fan's wet dream. He ensconces himself in a fortress, venturing out as a god-in-a-cape messianic figure. But when the masses rally to support him in their look-alike masks, we can't help but wonder if they will be capable of instituting an intelligent democracy to replace the order that is overthrown.

As a superhero, his philosophy has little to recommend it beyond listening to Julie London records and imitating The Three Musketeers. Bereft of V's remarkable powers, the pub-soaked working classes, watching him on a TV screen, seem to offer little hope for an enlightened future.

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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Read more V For Vendetta reviews:

Anton Bitel ****
Merlin Harries ***
Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2
Kotleta *

Director: James McTeigue

Writer: Lilly Wachowski, Lana 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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