Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore (who wanted nothing to do with the film) and illustrator David Lloyd, the story follows the transformation of Evey (Natalie Portman) from an assistant at a government sanctioned TV station to political activist. Heading out after curfew, Evey is set upon by unscrupulous police officers who nearly rape the young woman before V (Hugo Weaving) can rescue her. Saved from that humiliation, Evey is transported to a rooftop where shes provided a front row seat as V blows up the Old Bailey in an act of defiance staged to trigger a reaction from the beaten-down London populace.
The destruction of the Old Bailey takes place on the anniversary of the day vigilante Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. V vows that on the next anniversary of Guy Fawkes Day, he will make sure Parliament is history. Thus begins his campaign to provoke London citizens into action against their totalitarian government. As V orchestrates rebellion on a larger scale, he also works on edging Evey toward standing up against government abuses.
Terrorism, homosexuality, religious freedom, the right to free speech theres a virtual cornucopia of hot button topics addressed in V for Vendetta. It all works because of the sheer artistry of the film and the performances of its ensemble cast, led by Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. Weaving turns in a simply magnificent, mesmerizing performance. Although his face remains hidden behind Vs signature Guy Fawkes mask, Weavings voice and physical presence remain the focal point of the movie and prove its possible to do with simple intonations what some actors cant achieve through the full use of facial expressions. Its amazing how much the motionless mask comes alive due to Weavings brilliant performance. Physically, Weavings movements are gracefully minimalistic and theres not one iota of street mime in the way he brings V to life.
Portmans accent falters at times but she delivers such an emotionally riveting performance that that one small misstep is only a minor hiccup in what otherwise could be considered her best work to date. Stephen Fry and Stephen Rea also deliver totally engaging performances, as does Sinead Cusack in her extremely brief yet memorable time onscreen.
Its deliciously, twistedly ironic that John Hurt, the hero of Michael Radfords big screen adaptation of Orwells 1984, fills the role of the V for Vendetta version of Big Brother. As the high chancellor, Hurt not only chews up the scenery but also spits it out and stomps it to pieces.
Dont expect Matrix-like action sequences. No, V for Vendetta is above that nonsense. This film may have been written by those Matrix guys Larry and Andy Wachowski but, fortunately, it doesnt surrender itself (other than in one short sequence) to the style of that well-known trilogy. The fight scenes in V for Vendetta are beautifully choreographed yet remain viciously, realistically brutal. V doesnt fly through the air or exhibit superhero powers other than his unparalled ability to dispatch his enemy with knives. And while the fight scenes are critical to the plot, theyre never turned to to move the film along when dialogue could do the job more effectively.
After watching the film, the delay from its scheduled November 2005 release date not only makes sense but appears to have been the only move the studio could have made. While at the time the studio and filmmakers denied it was because of the London subway bombings, to have released it during that chaotic period in England would have been a critical mistake. The five month delay did nothing to lessen the films impact although it did exclude the use of Vs tagline Remember, remember the fifth of November from the pre-release advertising campaign. Thats a small price to pay to have the film hit theaters at a more appropriate time.
From the first moment Weaving hits the screen as V and delivers his introductory monologue, to the (literally) explosive finale, V for Vendetta is a visual feast for the eyes and an intelligent treat for the brain. V for Vendetta is refreshingly original and stunningly effective. See it and then prepare to talk about the film for days on end.
V for Vendetta was directed by James McTeigue and is rated R for strong violence and some language.