A masked vigilante rallies against a future totalitarian government, but what is the soul of a poet worth when guided by the mind of a madman?
On the evening of November 4th many years from now, two unique individuals prepare for their evening out. One is Evey (Natalie Portman), a young woman working for a television station who must endure a fascist government’s rules imposed upon her, yet she still finds the courage to brave curfew for a friend. The other is V (Hugo Weaving), a self-styled freedom fighter wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, armed with daggers, and about to light the fuse on a drama to play out over the next 365 days ending with the symbolic destruction of the House of Parliament. When the two individuals accidentally meet, both begin to question who they are, what they stand for, and what each is really capable of.
While V for Vendetta is being advertised as an action film, the story itself makes it very clear that ideas, not explosions, are what is important. It can be argued that the script is filled with fanciful and/or unexplained leaps of faith (and money), but the soul of the film comes down to one young woman’s understanding that there may be something more important than self and that freedom is purchased with a currency of self-sacrifice. The trade-off of such forbidden knowledge, however, is the complete loss of innocence, something that can never be undone.
Natalie Portman plays the character changing the most, from a person living in fear to one with the confidence to see what must be done; Ms. Portman makes it easy to believe how much anyone might have to endure to understand the power of an idea. Hugo Weaving (always masked) is both gentlemanly and vicious as a creature of clear conscious and sadistic purpose against those who’ve wronged him; while things make an eerie kind of sense from V’s point of view, he refuses to see a difference between his own personal vendetta and those in power over the state. Stephen Rea plays a state-sponsored detective who initially believes that the current government policies are necessary (because no one actually enjoys them) but begins to questions the motives of those imposing said restrictions as his investigation into the mysterious V also reveals secrets of state.
While the preview trailers show knife skills, gun-play, and explosions, these are really only elements of a deeper plot with a single political agenda: people who let freedoms be taken away must responsible to take them back. Is the illusion of safety worth trading the most basic human freedoms? Is your own life worth the freedom of others? And who watches the watchmen? (sorry… Alan Moore joke). Cliché or not, V for Vendetta must be taken for what it is, a story where unlimited financial resources (a hallmark of comic book epics) are made available in the name of freedom, but the message is still important even if the means seem over-the-top or far-fetched. After all, what better way to promote an idea than to disguise it as entertainment, hmm?
(a three skull recommendation out of four)
I’ve already been asked, “Why not a higher rating?” than three skulls? Without revealing too much, many epic comic book stories employ elements of huge financial status to accomplish plot points. Examples: secretly building a hidden underground rail between New York City and Philadelphia (single-handedly) in less than a year, or transforming a subterrainean crypt into an untraceable high-tech nerve center able to tap into global communications and hack into any system. In comic book terms these are footnotes, but when translated to screen, how did the hero find out who wronged them? Where did the money to put his master plan into effect come from? How much longer would this film have been if we told you? Like any other superhero film, it’s easier to accept that someone has already invented the Batmobile or that the Fortress of Solitude was made using Krytonian ‘krystal’ technology.