Saturday, March 18, 2006

V for Vendetta

Title: V for Vendetta (2005)
Dir: James McTeigue
Tagline: Remember, remember the fifth of November.
Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Every year, there's one film that really stands out to me. It may not always be the best film persay but it's the one that grabs me and I absolutely love it. In 2004, it was Shaun of the Dead. In 2005, Serenity. And although 2006 isn't even half-way over, I think I already have a winner: V for Vendetta.

Let me preface this review by saying, read Alan Moore's comic books. Even if you have seen or choose to see Vendetta in theaters, still read the comic books because they give you an entirely different experience. The filmmakers chose a more loose adaptation of the books, which I LOVE, because there's just no point in making a scene-for-scene adaptation of a book - just read the book! (Although Sin City was pretty cool, aesthetically).

Here is a run-down for those of you living under rocks: In the future, the USA has been destroyed by nuclear war, and England has become a totalitatian state under the rule of Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt, Alien). There is an 11 o'clock curfew, music is forbidden, and privacy is non-existant. Basically, anything in the Bill of Rights would be a no-no.

Determined to challenge this dictatorship and awaken the comatose population of England is a masked terrorist named V (Hugo Weaving, aka Agent Smith of The Matrix). He acts out a personal vendetta while taking on some of England's most powerful - and most corrupt - figures. After saving a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman, Garden State), V acquires a sometimes-reluctant sidekick in his vengeful endeavors.

V for Vendetta was written by The Wachowski Brothers of Matrix fame. For some people (like me), that was a turnoff because the Matrix sequels were discouraging. However, their writing on Vendetta is fantastic, and their love for Moore's writing really shows. Still they add their own style to it, going so far as to completely change or remove characters and events. But they do not hurt the original story at all - in fact, they enhance it! It's a true testament to your love for someone else's story when you can add new chapters of equal or greater quality.

The directing of McTeigue, a newcomer, is fantastic. Despite what you may hear, he is not some Wachowski-wannabe and Vendetta does not rip off The Matrix. Stupid people seem to think that the Wachowski's invented the slow-motion feature. But anyway, the directing is original and perfect for this movie. I can't wait to see more of his work.

For a lot of people, the most engaging part of Vendetta is V's revolution against the government. Cool and moving as that is, there is something about the character that moves me so much more - his own personal vendetta. I've always loved Batman because of his dark baggage, but V takes personal pain to a whole new level. The movie doesn't even touch on it that much, but I can absolutely feel his pain and it moves me.

Unlike Batman, V is not against killing, which opens up a whole new moral issue: is he a hero, or just a terrorist? Is murder ever justified? He does work very hard to free the people of England (including Evey) from their prison. Yes, it's partly vengeful, but there are some truly heroic qualities there.

I am so fascinated by tortured characters, and V takes the cake. Everytime I look at him, I see a man scarred both physically and mentally but he lives on both for vengeance and for the desire to save others from his fate. This is real. V is a real superhero, as far as I'm concerned. He is not perfect, and he has selfish motives sometimes. He wears a mask not to hide his identity, but to hide his pain (yes, I know he isn't the only character to ever do this).

He wears a plastic smile to hide what was done to him. Still, V has a cheery disposition about him, especially when he is with Evey. He seems so childlike sometimes, as if to suggest his real childhood was taken from him. For a man to be so vengeful and dangerous, and yet so lovable and sweet - god it is fascinating!

If you see nothing more than an action movie about some guy in a mask fucking over the government - well, you've really missed out. There is some seriously deep shit in this film and it blows my mind everytime I think about it.

In the role of V, Hugo Weaving is PERFECT. I've loved the man since I was 15 and heard him utter the words, "Mr Anderson..." But I fell all over again with this movie - and he's in a mask! I never thought voice and body language alone could convey a character so well. With just a cock of the head, he can be witty and charming. If you know Hugo's voice at all, it sounds nothing like V (or Agent Smith), so I was all the more blown away by his voice acting in this movie. There never could've been a more perfect V.

Portman is pretty good here. I'm always gonna like the girl, if only for The Professional, cause she was an amazing actress for a 13-year old. Only Christian Bale ever rivaled that. As for this movie, she's good as Evey (though entirely different from the comic, but that's a good thing, trust me) and I like her chemistry with V.

I didn't mention his character earlier, but Stephen Rea plays a detective trying to catch V and he is my second favorite performance. His performance and his character are great - another brilliant piece of casting. Everyone else is also very good and I wouldn't change a thing.

As you can tell from the essay I just wrote, I love this movie. I've seen it twice in theaters already and I'm anxiously awaiting a third viewing.


Anonymous said...

Related to our discussion yesterday, I can tell you didn't write this one for your paper since you got away with Alien for John Hurt (good choice, I lean toward The Elephant Man, but he's unrecognizable, or King Ralph of course...) rather than having to change it to Hellboy.

And for the record, McTeigue doesn't rip off the Matrix, he assistant directed it, so to my mind you can't be accused of ripping off your own work.


Heather said...

haha, yes I didn't review Vendetta for the paper (you can always distinguish those by their how rant-y they are). And yes, I chose Alien cuz I love his role in that, and you're right, they'd probably make me choose Hellboy or god knows what.

And U agree McTeigue doesn't rip off the Matrix, but tell that to the critics who say he does :-P

Heather said...

*I agreed

Anonymous said...

No I know you didn't say he ripped it off, sorry if I made it sound that way. I was attempting to agree with you, but for a different reason than you used. And of course I love Hurt in Alien too, I am obsessed with those at the moment afterall.