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REVIEW: V FOR VENDETTA
Author: Bill Ramey
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Director: James McTeigue
When I saw V FOR VENDETTA at a February screening in San Francisco during Wonder Con, I had never read the graphic novel upon which the film is based. In fact, as I write this review, I still haven’t read it. Personally, I feel that not reading it prior to seeing it was a good thing as it might have influenced my opinion of V FOR VENDETTA as a film. Consequently, I had no preconceived view about it going in.
I saw this film twice: once in San Francisco during Wondercon (as mentioned previously) and a second time at press screening in Houston, Texas. I’ve got to admit that I got much more out of this film seeing it a second time. In fact, I had to bump my grade for it up a notch from what I originally gave it. And for what it’s worth, I took my wife with me to the Houston screening and she liked it as well.
For those of you like me who knew little if any about the source material, V FOR VENDETTA is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Like the comic boook, the film is set in a near-future London that has been taken over by a fascist dictatorship. This government preys on the fears of its citizens to keep them in check. The story follows a young woman named Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) who meets the vigilante V (Hugo Weaving) as he plans to bring down the fascist government through a sophisticated campaign of sabotage and the assainations of vital members of the ruling party.
The government as depicted in V FOR VENDETTA can be compared to Nazi Germany, but it also has an Orwellian/1984 influence as well. To me, V FOR VENDETTA is a social commentary on “The Right;” the far Right, to be exact. What a government might become if never questioned; if citizens just mindlessly accept eVerything they tell us or do. Yes, this film is about a fictional fascist state (even though it is set in a future London), but it blatantly attempts to draw a correlation to certain (*ahem*) government leaderships and world eVents.
No doubt, this film is going to ruffle feathers -- particularly if you are, well, on the conservative right. There are going to be outcries that V FOR VENDETTA is nothing more than liberal propaganda. The whole idea -- especially in the post-9/11 world -- that a hero of a film is for all intense and purposes a “terrorist,” will certainly set off the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O’Reillys of the world. As will the film’s message that political change, in rare and extreme conditions, can only be achieved by violence.
As a student of history, V FOR VENDETTA made me think. During the era of the American Revolution, were men such as Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson "patriots," or were they terrorists, traitors, and ememies of the state? The same can be said for Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, William B.Travis, Juan Seguin and others during the Texas Revolution. What about Simón Bolívar in South America? And what of the Confederates such as Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and the like during the American Civil War?
Are you a loyal citizen if you blindly agree with what your government tells you? Or are you a patriot if you stand up to what is wrong?
No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, V FOR VENDETTA is a movvie that should make you think as well -- which was the intent of the film, in this reviewer‘s opinion. You will have to decide for yourself: Is V a hero or terrorist? Is what he’s doing right or wrong?
Natalie Portman's performance as Evey is top notch. I've always been sort of "meh" in regards to Ms. Portman, but I thought she was really good. John Hurt does a fine job as Sutler, the "leader" of the government (He appears via the television during most of the film). Props to Stephen Rae as the police investegator Finch as well. The Finch character is sort of like the audience -- he has a decision to make about V just like us.
But it is Hugo Weaving as V who particularly stands out -- even though he wears a mask the entire film. To make a character a living, breathing person -- one that the audience will care for -- with just one’s voice is a tremendous achievement. I found myself rooting for the guy and his cause, although he's a "terrorist." It makes one reconsider exactly what a terrorist is.
While the middle of the film was a bit slow (but not too much, trust me), the last part of the film comes through with the visuals and action sequences that I’m sure many expected. The finale is especially inspiring.
It is hard to please fans of comic books, novels, and books when a film based on them is made.
As a lifelong Batman fan, trust me on that one.
More times than not, they don’t live up to the source material. I don’t know if reading V FOR VENDETTA would have made a difference, but I enjoyed this film. And I believe you will too, IF you don’t go in expecting V FOR VENDETTA to be nothing more than an action-packed, visually driven, “comic book” flick.
Be prepared to not only be entertained, but to do a bit of thinking too.
"Jett" is the editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM, BATMAN IN COMICS, and ON FILM.