V FOR VENDETTA wants you to imagine the governments of Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other totalitarian regimes, aka Socialism aka Communism - except - those kinds of governments are now the government of England.
Pretty creepy, right? Except V isn't a government, V is just this guy, see? He's a guy who has a bone to pick with the future (or perhaps alternate history) England (or Great Britain or even United Kingdom. Take your pick). Why is he so worked up about the state of England?
Well, in this dystopian future/alternate England, the government is controlled by the fist of tyranny wielded by the tyrannical Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt: ALIEN, HELLBOY). Sutler is nutler, but he carries himself off quite well on giant television screens. There he comes across as a stern and perpetually angry "Big Brother". John Hurt is a fine and sometimes great actor, but in this flick he's a jowl shaking personality with as much dimension as the massive screen he appears upon.
England is held in this grip by not just the fist, but the fingers: men who have unimpeachable authority to enforce the curfews with both just and unjust impunity.
Keeping the lid tight comes about from several people. Mr. Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith: CLASH OF THE TITANS), is a dark and sullen minister and Sutler's right hand man. His part is no larger than Hurt's, but as he has to frequently be silent while on screen, Pigott-Smith had the option of acting without words, which he handles well. Tim adds dimension to his character merely by the act of quietly taking orders. A Keith Olbermann style televised mouthpiece (this is an American writing this review so I gotta go with what I know), named Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam) directs the anger and frustration of an imprisoned populace by laying the blame at the defeated feet of the enemies of England.
Twice Prothero proclaimed the enemies as Muslims and homosexuals, which elicited laughter from the real theater audience - regular folk know that fundamentalist Muslims despise homosexuals even more than fundamentalist Christians do - fundy Christians are willing to cure them where fundy Muslims will kill them. V FOR VENDETTA takes quite a heavy hand in painting Muslims and homosexuals as mutual innocent allies caught in Sutler's diabolical machinery.
In essence, England has become Fidel Castro's Cuba: dissidence punished by torture, imprisonment, and death, and obedience punished by thrall to the socialist regime. Like Castro, Sutler uses the lessons of 1984 to enslave his people to their fate. And in case you miss the Anti-Socialist point, the government of Supreme Chancellor Sutler prefers the national motifs of Nazi/Soviet style patterns. People live in docile obedience as Sutler - same as Hitler and Castro (any and all tin-pot dictators) - creates a daily atmosphere of "necessary police state" due to the fault of England's many enemies. Again, same as Orwell's 1984.
"England will prevail!"
And don't look for help coming from the United States. The U.S. can't help its former enemy and long time friend because, for all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist. Whatever destroyed the U.S. has left it as little more than a vast wasteland of fighting tribal governments, and a vivid warning to the populace of England of why the stern and restrictive order they have on their island is preferable to the anarchy in the U.S.
That said, everyone in this movie seems to use Dell computers! I guess that Texas has somehow survived and thrived during the period of America's ruin. And yet, now that I think of it, it's not all that surprising.
But what of V? What put such a bug up his ass that he separates himself from the frustrated but docile herd to become a freedom fighter? One can't call the movie version of V a terrorist. Unlike the graphic novel V, movie V never kills innocents or even bystanders. Unlike Alan Moore's creation, V never attacks anyone but his specific targets. Where terrorists instill terror, V instills hope.
Naturally this gives him a sort of Robin Hood status among the people who could use another one of those.
We first witness the heroic V (Hugo Weaving: THE LORD OF THE RINGS [all], THE MATRIX [all]), when he (V) meets Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman: MARS ATTACKS!). As a character, Evey (Evey = a "V". Get it?) wasn't up to much in Alan Moore's tale (women are nearly always secondary or even tertiary characters in an Alan Moore tale). But in the cinema V, Evey is the primary teller of the tale. One night, Evey gets caught short on her way to a date by some fingermen. They decide rape is the best way to teach a comely lass about curfew. A few beaten or possibly dead fingermen later, and V theatrically introduces himself in a maze of iambic pentameter. Evey, feeling safe within his presence, wonders aloud at his sanity - which V doesn't attempt to defend.
In this dictatorship, however, cameras are everywhere. The cameras witnessed the moment of Evey's rescue and more. Cameras recorded the concert after involving music and the Old Bailey.
It isn't long before Evey is chased down and nearly caught, only to be unwittingly saved again by V - who had no plan to do it, except in the heat of the moment, he didn't know what else to do.
From this point on, Evey becomes part of V's story and it is through her that we learn almost everything there is to know about V - which is both a lot and teasingly little.
V's past is the plot of this tale, you see. And a twisted past it is: something that would likely make a monster out of any of us.
But Evey isn't the only one telling this story. Supreme Chancellor Sutler has put Inspector Eric Finch (Stephen Rea: IN DREAMS, FEAR DOTCOM), on the case. Unfortunately for both men, Finch is better at his job than Sutler would like. The closer he gets to the truth, the less Sutler likes it. For it turns out that V is a ghost from Sutler's past come back to haunt him.
The Inspector finds himself getting no closer to who V actually is. But what he does uncover is how V was created; why he was created; what created him; and he gets a little too close to finding out who created him. As the evidence is uncovered piece by piece and death by death, Inspector Finch comes to realize that the government he works for and protects is not the necessary evil he has imagined it to be, but an unnecessary evil he has long been a pillar in supporting.
V FOR VENDETTA is a good movie in spite of what the Warchowski Brothers probably wanted.
While the ham-fisted writing team of the Warchowski Brothers (THE MATRIX [all]), were keen to make a sledge-hammer insipid propaganda film, both the producers and the studio had other ideas. Especially after witnessing the reaction of fans at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con. Just the trailer alone was a preachy We're - so - smart - and - you're - so - stupid, SO, we'll, lay - it - on - extra - thick - and - redundant, UNTIL, we've - pounded - it - into - your - tapioca - brain.
Some of the audience applauded politely, others booed or hissed. But overall there was a vast silence of disapproval. Uncomfortable questions were asked of the panel. For the rest of the con, many kept the Guy Fawkes face masks they were given, but wore them on the side of their heads in protest*.
Suddenly, every bad thing that Alan Moore was saying about the film made sense and the masks were being worn as a Guy Fawkes rebellion against the studio that handed them out. This was the audience that felt burned by the Warchowski Brothers from the first and second MATRIX sequels. The fact that the boys took a backseat this time and let their first assistant director, James McTeigue (THE BEAST, THE MATRIX [all]), direct, mattered not.
"Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot."
V FOR VENDETTA was supposed to be released in November of 2005, but got kicked back while the studio frantically re-edited the film and even added a few re-shoots.
Oscar winning editor Martin Walsh (DARK BLOOD, HACKERS) likely worked deep into the night and only those at the top know exactly what he - and they - did to change the film into something less preachy, less heavy handed, more intelligent, and above all, more diabolical.
One pretty damn good movie!
V FOR VENDETTA came with a lot of baggage. It was a highly popular comic back in the 1980s during the Margaret Thatcher years. Writer Alan Moore, who has done for the graphic novel what Shakespeare did for the play, created an entirely fleshed out world of a terrorist fighting against a tyrannical regime: a metaphor of Thatcher-ite England. Of course, now we know that said "regime" never happened and many look upon the 1980s as Golden years in the UK. But that's what the press was up to in those days when you had a conservative in office.
Understand that I'm not inserting my political commentary into a movie review - the comic WAS political commentary, and V FOR VENDETTA as a movie attempts to do the same.
But V, which could have killed itself by preaching the politics of the moment, becomes a worthy contender for classic status on the screen. Hugo Weaving, unable to use his face at all in this tale, puts body language to good effect, and his voice adds to the subtlety and threat of his physical animations. I'm not kidding. Hugo's performance is Oscar worthy as he portrays a man who thirsts to do the right thing, yet is crippled by the knowledge that he's insane. This is further compounded by the fact that V can never see his face, as it was taken from him at the moment of his re-creation.
Evey: "I want to look at you."
I think, in the years to come as world problems pass through the hands of the custodians in power who enter and exit, the issues that originally created the movie V FOR VENDETTA, archived in histories' dust, will not stick. As such, the movie will attain a higher standing as a film for the ages.
It's that good.
4 Shriek Girls
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