Despite some heavy-handed allegory, this melding of action film and political thriller succeeds marvelously as rousing entertainment. It begins in an England of the near future, where a dictatorial Grand Chancellor (John Hurt) wields supreme power and enforces his self-made laws with the aid of secret police. He is opposed by a mysterious avenger calling himself "V" (Hugo Weaving). Wrapped in a cloak and wearing a mask of Guy Fawkes -- an Englishman who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the early 1600s -- V uses terrorist tactics against the Chancellor, who assigns a dogged police inspector (Stephen Rea) to run the miscreant to ground. Enter Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a young woman mistakenly identified as V's accomplice after he rescues her from some government thugs. Much more intricate and character-driven than the average popcorn movie, V for Vendetta boasts a superior script by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski (of The Matrix fame), based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore. James McTeigue's direction is unusually well modulated; he eschews the overuse of fancy camera moves and showy special effects in favor of shrewd story development. He also shows restraint in the handling of his principal characters. Daring, flamboyant, and stylish, V for Vendetta is the very model of a suspenseful action movie that takes itself seriously without surrendering the obvious entertainment value that makes it so irresistible.
V for Vendetta could have easily been a cliché dystopian fantasy set against a stock totalitarian backdrop. It could have also been a heavy-handed warning about the power of fear in the post-9/11 world or, still worse, a wordy treatise on the philosophy of government. In actuality, V for Vendetta manages an almost impossible compromise between these options. Those banking on the Wachowski brothers' trademark balletic action sequences and epic explosions will not be disappointed, while those worried about the brothers' tendency to get lost in their own exposition (a la the Matrix sequels) can have no fear. This movie is fun, enthralling, and thought provoking. Hugo Weaving's meticulous voice acting and deft gesticulations rival the movements of trained dancers as he brings V to life, while Natalie Portman provides a full range of emotion and believable development as we watch her transform from frightened speck within the masses to fully liberated citizen of her own mind. The two find a strong dynamic on which to build their both tangible and symbolic onscreen relationship, and this is the same dynamic that provides the story itself with such a strong backbone. V himself acknowledges that he is a man acting as a symbol, summarized best with V's own exclamation, "Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. There is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof." As a result, the symbolic quality of the story itself is not at all difficult for the audience to understand. By the end of the film, legions of masked and caped citizens descending on the houses of Parliament in improbably perfect formation come off not as unrealistic, but as a beautifully stylized illustration. V for Vendetta succeeds where the Matrix sequels failed because despite its disinclination to answer all of the questions it poses, it holds tight to a focused, cohesive theme. This can be attributed to first-time director James McTeigue's ability to place a coherent story at the heart of his philosophizing. There is no simple answer to what role vengeance should play in a revolution, but V for Vendetta leaves to the audience not only the question but the option of whether or not they want to answer it.
|Source:||Warner Home Video|
|Sound:||[Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]|