So I watched V for Vendetta…
There are about five or six movies that I make an effort to watch at least once a year and this movie is high up on that list. In parts it has taught me lessons about integrity, love, respect, tolerance and the power of the human spirit (to read one of these lessons click here). As a whole, this movie has entertained and thrilled me for close to a decade now. So with today being the 5th of November, I thought what better movie to write a review on.
Okay, basic plot: In a not so distant future, war and bouts of disease have crippled the world. England, one of the few countries left thriving, has survived under the rule of a totalitarian government that treats its citizens like prisoners and controls almost every aspect of their lives. A mysterious vigilante, dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, who is known only as ‘V’ (Huge Weaving) decides to lead a rebellion against this government. V vows to blow up Parliament, emulating the attempted destruction made famous by the actual Guy Fawkes. V becomes a symbol that becomes the rallying cry to shake the country out of its collective apathy and poses a dangerous threat to the government led by High Chancellor, Adam Sutler (John Hurt). A threat that must be destroyed at once.
I feel this an extremely underrated movie. It’s one of my favourites and, I often feel, it doesn’t get the hype nor the praise that it so richly deserves. You can heap praise on it as a political drama or as an action movie but we must also remember that it’s also a comic book movie – V for Vendetta is based on a graphic novel published by Vertigo Comics which is a subsidiary of DC Comics. When you take that into consideration, the movie becomes all the more impressive. It came at a time when translating stories made famous by comic books into quality movies was still an unknown art. So for the filmmakers to produce such a quality film speaks volumes about their skill and insight into the nature of storytelling.
But V for Vendetta doesn’t only feel like a comic book movie, certainly nothing like the comic book movies we see today, I’d still classify it as a political drama. It is a story about revolution, about uprising, about the power that citizens have (or are supposed to have, at least) over their governments. It really is a universal and timeless story. You can open up any newspaper (or website, it is 2015, after all) and you’re guaranteed to find a story about citizens in violent struggles against their government. That’s why I’ve been able to watch this movie over and over again since its release, ten years ago, it’s still relevant. It still has elements that I can look upon and draw wisdom from. When a movie is crafted in a way that its themes and concepts remain timeless, that’s quality film-making. I can see myself twenty years from now still watching this movie and I cannot say that for the majority of films that I watch.
One of the things I love about having this blog is getting a platform to talk about movies; but also I love watching movies with the express intention of writing a review on them. When you review something, your perception of it changes. You’re on the look out for things you can praise and things you can critique and even though I’ve watched this movie so often, I still found new things I liked about it. Director, James McTeigue, does a great job creating a comic book visual style in this film. There are scenes where characters pause for a second longer than usual and other scenes where silence and stillness are incorporated into the storytelling so it feels like you’re looking at a comic book panel. It’s a very subtle feature of the film and one that I really enjoyed. The Wachowski Brothers also do an incredible job with this film’s screenplay and fill it with wonderfully crisp and engaging dialogue.
The acting in this movie is straight out of a dream. Natalie Portman puts in sensational performance (some of her best work, in fact) as Evey Hammond, a innocent bystander who becomes heavily involved in V’s plot to destroy Parliament. Evey is wonderfully written and she shows a great deal of progression throughout the film. I think the character is meant to represent the general population – at first, apathetic and too afraid to be involved in change but through trials and tribulations, finds their strength and courage. Portman does a stellar job and perfectly illustrates Evey’s journey. The true star of this movie, in my opinion, is Hugo Weaving as V. V has a Guy Fawkes mask on his face for the entirety of the movie so we never see his face, so all Weaving has to express his emotions is his voice and physical actions. It’s amazing the work he does because most actors have their faces blown up on a big screen for the entire run time of the movie but we still don’t know what they’re feeling. The complexity of emotions that Weaving displays just through inflection in his voice and subtle shrugs and changes in posture is phenomenal! It’s reminiscent of the skill that Tom Hardy displayed in his portrayal of Bane.
One of the many aspects I loved about this film was its well-measured and patient build-up to the end. It’s not like V shows up one day and the entire country is ready to revolt a week later. There’s a slow and steady nature to the way V wins the people’s support and it’s all about becoming a symbol that the nation can get behind. One of my favourite lines in the movie is when V says, “The building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are given power by people; alone a symbol is meaningless but, with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world.” This is one of things that DC heroes, in the movies at least, have over their Marvel counterparts – Marvel heroes are simply brute thugs who believe beating the bad guy is all that’s needed while DC heroes strive to be symbols that inspire the common man to achieve greatness and be a hero in their own way. But I digress…
Overall, V for Vendetta is one of my favourite movies and a film that I enjoy in new and unexpected ways every time I see it. It’s socially still incredibly relevant, has moments that truly inspire you to greatness but also has some cool action and funny one-liners to keep you entertained more superficially. It works on so many levels and is definitely a movie you need to watch. 9/10