Remember, Remember, the 5th of November
The gunpowder treason and plot
I Can think of no reason
That the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot…
8 years after the release of this film, it remains a hit amongst a select group of people but never truly reached the heights of fame it so richly deserved. I find that this vexes me some, and in fact for those who have not witnessed this one, I can only vow to convince you to do so.
I must advise of course that this film is based on a graphic novel by the acclaimed writer Alan Moore. A man who is so fed up with adaptations of his work that he refused to allow his name to be put on the film. The artist, David Lloyd had no such qualms. To be sure Hollywood can be seen as a villain in his eyes as their adaptation of League of Extraordinary Gentleman left much to be desired and forced Sean Connery into retirement. He is also responsible for the original works of From Hell and Watchmen. As you can tell by the nature of the stories he tells he has opinions on government , law enforcement and the military.
It also needs to be mentioned that there were many comparisons to certain current American politicians when this film was released. Those, while perhaps accurate, were entirely coincidental in my opinion as the original work contained much the same vitriol towards government and was entirely focused on the Margaret Thatcher era in Moore’s native Britain. If any lines can be drawn between two different political terms a few thousand miles and decades apart then we are drawing them ourselves. I don’t necessarily believe this bad; as well written material such as a graphic novel and movie are art. Art should provoke. Art should inspire. If this particular work does provoke such conversation, right-wrong-or-indifferent, then it is a particularly successful piece.
The film is not a pure adaptation of the graphic novel however, and does contain some not insignificant changes. The changes lay at the hands of the Wachowski’s; formerly the Wachowski brothers now brother and sister (Andy and Lana). The Wachowski’s are best known for their other pro-thought films, the Matrix and Cloud Atlas. They are also lamented for other films such as Speed Racer (which may get a review later this month). Let’s be absolutely clear, V cannot as written be translated to any screen media with any ease. It needed adaptation. Having read the original a few times, and likely after this review, I can assure you the true message is there; if somewhat less vague and with less a veneer to it. What is left is surprisingly wildly successful on multiple levels. As stated it is enough to provoke; be it emotion, thought or discussion. It does blend humor with action and a horrifying dystopian future that we all see on the edge of the horizon in our nightmares and conspiracy theories.
The plot itself centers around a girl Evey Hammond, a lowly assistant at the state run television network. During a chance encounter she finds her life saved at the hands of a the vicissitudes of Fate entwine their lives closer and closer. V is forced to kidnap her to save her life once again while he conducts a one man war on the regime. V attempts to rouse the Vox Populi to be heard once more while being hunted by a Big Brother type government run by Chancellor Sutler. Along the way a simple detective by the name of Finch searches for a truth that no one wants him to find. A link between V, his victims and the regime. The movies climax is explosive in a way only celluloid can deliver.
There’s not much to say about the directing on this one. This isn’t to say that James McTeigue did badly. This was his first film directing on his own, which he followed with three largely unsuccessful films (The Raven, Invasion and Ninja Assassin). I look at his jobs prior where he was a second unit or assistant director. Sadly, his credits don’t get better. Street Fighter (OF COURSE!), Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and the Matrix films. I can neither blame nor laud him for the various successes of this film. I must instead place the value of success upon the actors.
One stands apart, but we will get to him in a moment. Natalie Portman (Leon, Black Swan, Thor) plays Evey. She is one aspect of our lens into the existence of V. She is the heroine of the film who undergoes a remarkable transformation through her experiences and in an amazing arc truly becomes something New. For those so attracted to her, I will mention her fetish costume in the film. That’s all you get. Stephen Rea is an amazingly underrated actor who is known for playing characters that can move a story forward but is never quite the center. His best film to date is Citizen X, about Russia’s first serial killer. His Finch seems to be the only person in the chain of command of the government who wants to know the truth. The truth about V, the truth about Evey, the Chancellor and even the truth about what kind of man he is. He wields the perpetual look of a man who knows the entire game is against him but keeps playing.
John Hurts Chancelor Adam Sutler is quite literally a Hitler-esque force of nature while he holds power. My terminology there is intentional. Stephen Fry steals whatever scene he is in as late night TV host Deitrich. He not only shows his comedic ability and sense of timing but the raw weight and gravity that he can bring to the fore when needed. Watch him and you will see a talent the United States barely knows and that is regrettable.
Though this review is tending to the unnaturally verbose time must be dedicated to the man known as Hugo Weaving; who plays V. If you don’t know him and call yourself a geek, turn in your geek card now. Just go turn it in. He is best known for his monotone delivery as Agent Smith in the Matrix, or Elrond in any of the Tolkein films, the voice of Megatron in the Bay Transformers, or Red Skull in Captain America. There are quite literally thousands upon thousands of actors out there. You will hear in certain interviews the difficulty of an actor displaying emotion through a thick make up or application. Challenges in showing their body language in concealing or dark clothing. To these actors, please ask Mr. Weaving for lessons. Through the entirety of the film he is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, black wig and hat. His clothing is bulky over his frame making him look larger than he actually is. Throughout the film he shows the power of basics. His voice modulation is the best I have heard; and when matched with subtle but powerful movements of his head and shoulders he expresses more emotion in a single film than many actors do in their entire careers. He is in a single word – Incredible.
If you do nothing else after this review, watch the scenes with him and his amazing range and how you can tell what the emotion is without seeing a single actual facial feature.
So for those who found this verbiage voluble (OK, I’ll stop)
I can only come short of begging people to take a chance on this film if you would not otherwise. Watch it to consider the original material being written in the 80’s. Watch it to consider the time it was made as a film and the political landscape then. Watch it NOW and consider the message it delivers and our own political landscapes. Watch it for the acting delivered by some amazing talents. Watch it for the beautiful cinematography and storytelling.
All I can say is watch it and let it provoke you to think, to act or to feel. I do not think you will be disappointed and as I said before if you can find parallels between 1982 when this was first written and 2005 or 2013 you bring them with you and there’s no shame in it!
V for Vendetta is a highly underrated film that needs to be watched and appreciated and I can only hope that it’s power can be seen in time.