Sunday, September 24, 2006

V for Vendetta

As a reformed Matrix nut, I was willing to wait a while after 'Revelations' before I rushed out to see another Wachowski brothers offering, but I have to say that V for Vendetta is an interesting little movie. Now before I get into this, I should point out that in the closing credits, V for Vendetta is described as 'based on a graphic novel.' For the uninitiated, this is like a comic book, only with more gravitas... Graphic Novels are generally not episodic, so do not have a 'to be continued..' waiting for you on the last page. (Just as well, as they're generally about twice the price of a regular novel). Anyway, armed with this knowledge, you would be wise to prepare yourself for a mature, brooding, dark story in V for Vendetta. And you would be right. For graphic novels, think themes of emotional resonance, as opposed to the comic book style, where the dolphins have laser beams on their heads...

It appears that heroes from graphic novels are not as formulaic or straight forward as their comic book cousins. The standard ingredients of a superhero comic book story (mask, superhuman strength, well-equipped lair) are here, but are not at the forefront of what makes V for Vendetta interesting. V's origins are revealed, but is 'becoming' is more tragic than your standard comic boook fare. Also, the V character never once removes his mask (which begs the question, was Hugo Weaving ever on set at all, or did he just do a Pixar-style voice-over from a studio somewhere?) .

Natalie Portman's character has far more screen-time than V, and their relationship is definitely not your orthodox super-hero/screen belle type deal. The relationship between V and Evie (Natalie Portman's character) , while tender and ultimately very intense, is a million miles from Lois and Clark. If you have seen the trailer for this movie, with Natalie Portman's sporting a shaved head, you have a clue as to how much fun she has in this movie...

So to cover the plot, V is set in the near future in a dystopic England, the government is a totalitarian-style regime with a menacing John Hurt in the seat of power. Curfews are in place, and the corrupt secret police patrol the streets at night. V encounters Evie when she has a run in with the secret police, saves her from a pretty nasty fate, and then takes her to a show of his handiwork: namely a fairly extravagant terrorist act. Evie, who works at BTN (the 2015 equivalent of the BBC) becomes properly embroiled in V's schemes when he takes over the network, broadcasting a promise to the nation that he will return on Guy Fawkes night the following year to blow up the houses of parliament.

V's broadcast has an impact the downtrodden people of England, who ready themselves for his return, unsettling the political establishment, while the propaganda of BTN attempts to convince them of V's demise, and the importance of maintaining the status quo. While the people await V's return, a cop (Stephen Rea) investigating the whereabouts of the terrorist finds himself drawn into a mysterious cover-up, and it is through this plot line that we learn of V's origins.

The themes tackled in V for Vendetta are not light-weight, and in some areas you get the sense its scope is a little too ambitious. However, it is a memorable movie and I'd recommend it on the basis that Weaving's dialogue, while at times extremely complicated, is delivered with ease and in a manner that warms you to the character. Natalie Portman has some great moments in V, but her accent is 'fairly dodgy' (as she might say). That said, Weaving sports a mask for this entire film, so she is acting for both of them in their scenes together, and she does a good job. The movie is book-ended with two special-effects driven moments, but for the most part, this is a film about what makes people tick... you know, emotionally and that. If you are expecting a crash-bang-wallop bullet-time-laden kung-fu-fest, go rent the first matrix movie (or possibly the second). If you want something a little off-beat, with a dark, brooding story and a small dose of breathtaking knife-wielding lunacy, then 'V for Vendetta' may be the one for you.

Verdict: Smart, dark, very nice to look at, but a little too ambitious.
Rating: 6/10

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