In the futuristic drama “V for Vendetta”, director James McTeigue brilliantly brings to life the crisply written screenplay of the very talented Wachowski Brothers. Set in totalitarian England at some unspecified time in the future, the film focuses on one mysterious mans plan to bring down the government.
The character of V, cleverly played by the Australian actor Hugo Weaving, is a counter hero because he is attempting to organize a revolution against an oppressive British government that is full of corruption and deceit. Hiding behind a gothic like mask, V conceals his identity from all the other characters and from the audience.
Despite the title and the seductive nature of V’s violent personality, the film is really at bottom, a love story in it own way. These love interests is a woman named Evey, who abducted by V and held in captivity for about three years. When she is first captured, Evey, played by Natalie Portman, is a gentle and reserved British citizen who is unaware of the atrocities committed by the corrupt British government. By the time she has survived her captivity, Evey has come to realize that her appearance of being a respectful citizen is just a disguise that covers her evil nature. They fall in love when her evil nature connects to his evil nature making them perfect for each other.
Once V and Evey “commit” to each other, his plot to blow up parliament on November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day, can proceed. Evey, along with thousands of others, have now joined V’s masked army of rebels. Each of V’s “soldiers” is wearing a duplicate of the mask worn by V. The plan is for V’s “army” to march toward Parliament. In the meantime, an underground train filled with explosives is ready to be sent to a location directly under parliament. The ending of the film, which will remain a secret, will surprise even the most experienced film viewer.
V for Vendetta is filled with many symbolic references and traditional themes. When the masked army marches in unison towards parliament, the film viewer cannot help but be reminded of the famous scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth when ten thousand members of the English army and the Scottish rebels each cut down a branch of a tree and use it as a disguise to attack Macbeth’s castle. In both Macbeth and V for Vendetta, rebels are trying to overthrow an oppressive government. The Wachowski Brothers evidently evidently know their Shakespeare.
The film also borrows thematically from another very famous futuristic story about an oppressive British Government. George Orwell’s classic novel entitled 1984 is the story of Winston Smith who secretly tries to connect with a young woman who he thinks will join him in trying to go against “Big Brother”, which is the main branch of the totalitarian government. Like “V for Vendetta”, Orwell’s novel about a world in which the majority of citizens have lost their rights is really a love story. In both the novel and the film, one theme becomes clear: love cannot survive when individuals are not free to be who they are.
Despite its political timeliness and despite its top-notch acting, the film fails in certain areas. One problem lies in its complicated plot. At times, the viewer struggles to follow all the ins and outs of the character’s motivations. For example, V himself evidently has a personal grudge or “vendetta” towards the government. What that personal grudge or vendetta is, is never made clear to the audience. Also, the film is thematically dark because its backdrop is an oppressive government filled with corruption. At times, this thematic darkness spills over into a visual darkness that clouds a scene and makes it hard for the viewer to distinguish characters and props.
The cinematography of the film was very effective. For example, in one scene, V hurls his sword at the “bad government officials.” Through an effective use of slow motion cinematography, the director captures the anger of V and his passion to execute those forces he feels have betrayed him and the rest of the world. As that sword tumbles through air, the viewer has no doubt that it will find its mark a few times over.
The most interesting characters in the film are V himself and Evey. V is a fascinating character because he never really changes his personality throughout the film. He is intent from the very start on destroying the British government. V never really allows anything or any person to distract him from succeeding in his goal to overthrow parliament. V easily seduces the audience because we feel sorry for him and then we feel empowered by him. His one soft spot is his feelings for Evey. Yet even his attachment to her is seen as less important than his passion to destroy the government. To the audience, V is a very interesting character type because of his commitment to one goal. Evey on the other hand undergoes a character change. She moves from being an obedient citizen to a rebel. Evey is a beautiful looking woman who falls in love with an obsessed man. She never even sees who that person really is physically behind the mask. However, Evey like the audience falls in love with V’s character and personality. Like many of us, we would like to think that we see beneath the outward appearance of someone and appreciate more the inner person.
All in all, “V for Vendetta” is a film definitely worth seeing. If you are disgusted with the present political state of affairs, and you feel there may be hope for change, “V for Vendetta” is the film for you. Although the extreme measures V goes through to overthrow the government are probably not the measures that a modern American audience would use to show their dissatisfaction with the government, the spirit of V’s rebellion is something that most Americans can identify with.
I would give this movie an overall rating of a 4.
– Jared Albaum