While we fight a war with an increasing death toll, attempt to repair the damage of a hurricane disaster which is slipping further and further out of public view, and try to make sense of the announcement that Paula Abdul is signing on for another three years of that dismal show, it seems Americans don’t have a lot of things to be proud of lately. Having pride in our country is becoming more and more difficult, so it is relieving that “V for Vendetta” came along when it did. Larry and Andy Wachowski, the men behind the philosophically convoluted “Matrix” movies, have written a film that fuses several ideas together to create a grand metaphor about the state of our nation. Adapted from a graphic novel of the same name, the film boasts an accomplished cast, which includes Hugo Weaving and the woman who begs to be taken home to mom, Natalie Portman. Rookie director James McTeigue has knocked one out of the park his first time up to the plate with “V for Vendetta.”
“V for Vendetta” sets the metaphorical stage obviously enough – in the near future an oppressive government takes complete control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives. The fear of Big Brother and a Gestapo-esque police force keeps the people of this futuristic version of England in check. Though the film is set in England, the setting does not deter from the overall point being made about the relationship between governments and society. Like many of her fellow citizens, Evey (Portman) feels the fear around her but does not know what to do about it. One evening Evey is caught by the secret police after curfew. As they harass and attempt to have their way with her, a masked figure known simply as “V” (Weaving) rushes in and does away with the slimy cops. V whisks Evey away to a rooftop where they witness the destruction of a government building as it collapses in time with the film’s classically driven score. Hugo Weaving is one of the most colorful actors to ever come out of Australia. Herein, Weaving is responsible for the sinfully clever V, who has a knack for anarchy and alliteration. Personally one of the greatest characters ever concocted, he speaks with a poetic smugness which borders on Shakespearean.
After the crazy night, Evey returns to her humdrum life. The same day, V makes another attack on the nationwide television station where Evey works. He addresses the nation and claims that in one year’s time he will destroy the Parliament building. As V tries to escape, he is assisted by the stunned Evey who now knows she can never go back to her old life. At V’s underground home, he tries to recruit Evey in his plan to topple the evil government. As two fugitives from the law, V and Evey find comfort in each other’s histories. Evey explains how her parents were political activists who were “black bagged” by the government. V recalls how he was once the subject of the government’s biological testing on its citizens. Following his escape, he vowed to go after those responsible for the horrors at the laboratory.
Weaving and Portman are perfectly matched up on screen and their dialogue plays out like a series of calculated chess moves. After a year dodging police investigation and government imprisonment, Evey and V are reunited on the fifth of November, when V explains that he has been preparing Evey to take his place as a defender of justice. When Evey asks V why he is going to blow up the Parliament building he tells her, “This country needs more than a building. It needs hope.”
“V for Vendetta” stands rather smugly on its soapbox. The action scenes are top notch, but are few and far between. There is a rather interesting police investigation, led by the brilliantly somber Stephen Rea. One could have a great time counting all the V references interspersed throughout the film as well. The metaphors and symbolism cover every modern controversial issue from sexuality, religion and politics. “V for Vendetta” has the guts to say what everyone is thinking and the intelligence to do it in such a way that it can actually make for an exciting and thought-provoking film.