V for Vendetta
In the opening ten seconds of V for Vendetta we are presented with a remix of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and, therefore, a statement from director James McTeigue that what you are about to watch is one of the smartest, most thrilling and most fulfilling film’s we have seen for some time. V for Vendetta is easily the best film of 2006 and it has the legs to hold us over until the release of the summer tentpole films in May.
V for Vendetta Review
V for Vendetta is one of those rare films that tests whether you love movies. If you don’t greatly enjoy the film, than there is a strong chance that you let some of the subject matter get to you. The film-- which takes a few liberties with the graphic novel by having a few shots at the United States --features material that is bound to bother some. However, you must remember that the original story was originally written by Alan Moore during the 80’s when there was no war in Iraq and no need to mention, let’s say, a civil war in the United States.
The story, which takes place in a totalitarian England in the near future (~2020), works to tell us why a totalitarian government that uses fear for power could never work; be it in England, Germany or the United States. The story follows the general rule-- ‘when everybody fears you, you should fear everybody.’ However, in the case of V for Vendetta, it goes more like, ‘people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of its people.’ In a totalitarian government whose grip on the people is so tight, there is bound to be a catalyst that will cause control to slip through its fingers.
When it comes to story telling, director James McTeigue has created a film featuring a structure so tight that there is not a single scene wasted. The film consists of five envelopes that all run parallel to one another over the course of a single year that will lead to a culminating event on November 5th. All the envelopes are inevitably cross paths on multiple occasions, but each are also given their time to shine.
The first envelope is Evey, played beautifully by Natalie Portman. We encounter the character at the beginning of V for Vendetta when she is caught after curfew and threatened with punishment that is hinted to be rape by government workers. ‘V’ saves Evey and quickly introduces who he is and what he plans to do. Evey has the most dynamic character arch in the film as she goes from frightened citizen to a supporter of ‘V’ willing to go forth with terrorist activities in the name of change.
The second envelope is codename ‘V’, played by the great Hugo Weaving. V has the most complex dialogue in the film with his references to plays from the likes of Macbeth and other famous authors. V is the catalyst in V for Vendetta and requires most moviegoers to go against their standard cognitions. In V for Vendetta we are asked to cheer for a terrorist who finds violence as the only way to support and nourish an ideal; a troubling topic during our present-day era. Fortunately, we encounter enough corruption in the totalitarian government that it becomes easy to side with V and understand his position. Hell, we join up with him long before Evey does.
The third envelope is the totalitarian government itself. Filled with party heads such as Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt), Lewis “The Voice” Prothero (Roger Allam), Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith) and Head Detective Finch (Stephen Rea), we encounter this group in session on a continuous basis as they work together (and independent) in order to capture codename ‘V’ before November 5th roles around. As the film progresses, the government heads are forced to take more aggressive actions and therefore begin to divide amongst themselves.
The fourth envelope in V for Vendetta is Head Detective Finch. With a character arch almost as dynamic as Evey’s, Finch is one of the few government officials that does not turn a blind eye on the evil and corruption that must occur to keep a large population under control. With the detective’s opening scene we are hinted that he understands V’s position against the controlling government and even gives V’s broadcast an open ear. We follow Finch throughout the film as he researches a top secret site in order to find the origins of V. Finch’s story is nothing short of genius, allowing the audience to learn the facts behind V, and the detention center, just as Finch does; fucking brilliant!
The final envelope that we visit in the film is the people themselves. Every time there is a new broadcast (nobody shuts off their TV in the future) we join various citizens as they sit in bars or at home with their families. Each time we are allowed to watch their reactions to every piece of news, Chancellor Announcement, and update from V himself.
All five envelopes come together by the end of the film, re-accompanied with the “1812 Overture,” in a glorious finale to an amazing film.
V for Vendetta is going to make you think, but don’t try to place the film in any current social context. Though I found some of the ‘liberties’ taken with the original story a bit unnecessary, as a film, I couldn’t be happier.
V for Vendetta will be one of the top films by the time 2006 closes out.