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Customer Review

129 of 149 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic graphic novel gets a contemporary politics makeover, August 12, 2006
This review is from: V for Vendetta (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
The brilliant Hugo Weaving excels and Natalie Portman redeems herself (Princess Amidala, anyone?) in this all-too-relevant film. This film deals with many of the issues relevant to politics today and brilliantly skewers many characters who will seem very familiar from current events - politicians who exploit fear, blowhard talk-show hosts etc. Set in England after the demise of the US as a superpower, the film deftly refers to current political events as background to the rise of totalitarianism and ethnic cleansing. The central theme of the film is the trading of civil liberties for security, and the difficulty of undoing such a pact once it has been made.

The film also tackles many ethical issues such as vengeance and torture with what may be for some people uncomfortable conclusions.

Much has been written about Alan Moore (the original author) removing his name from the credits of the film, a decision which was based on the Wachowski Brothers (of Matrix fame) departing from the original text in their efforts to update it. However, the Wachowski's have created a masterpiece that adheres to the spirit of the original book whilst holding up a mirror to contemporary politics. Most importantly, the character of V (dandy, intellectual, mysterious) is largely untampered with.

Unsurprisingly for a film that is based on a comic book/graphic novel, the main characters almost border on archetypes, and this lends an appropriately comic-book feel to the film, and in this respect although it has no animation it has some similarity to films like Sin City.

The plot centers around the interaction of Hugo Weaving as V and Natalie Portman as Evey. Carefully-placed reveals allows us insight into the events that (literally) moulded V's worldview and show his conversion of Evey from timid obedientarian to revolutionary. Of particular note is Hugo Weavings ability to emote from behind a glossy, permanently-grinning mask. The mask (and I am not going to give any spoilers here) is of a character called Guy Fawkes, a would-be revolutionary who long ago was foiled in his attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in England.

Natalie Portman gives a convincing portrayal of the personal journey that Evey is persuaded to undertake, and John Hurt excels as the megalomaniacal Chancellor Sutler. All similarities between Hurt's Sutler and Adolf Hitler are of course completely intentional, as are the ruling party's insignia and oppressive behaviour both of which have definite Third Reich similarities. Hurt's performance would seem over the top if it were not for the fact that we regularly see the same hate-spewing histrionics from political pundits and talking heads. I would guess that Hurt modeled his performance on talk-show hosts every bit as much as the crack-pot dictators of the Second World War. It is no accident that when Hurt addresses the public, or even his political allies in private, he does so over a giant TV monitor.

To call the supporting cast excellent would be an understatement. Of particular note is Rupert Graves' brilliant portrayal of Dominic, the 'Voice Of London', a twisted, hate-filled talking head whose concentration-camp crimes are rewarded by a cushy job spewing vitriol over the airwaves on the government-controlled TV channel, a man so in love with his own persona that he even rants along to recordings of his own shows whilst in the shower. His diatribes are punctuated with catch-phrases such as "I'm a God-fearing Englishman!" and "England Prevails!". Also notable is Stephen Rea's portrayal of the beaten-down Inspector Finch, a man who has risen in the ruling party despite his not-quite-ethnically-pure family background and whose disillusionment with the party enables him to play a defining role in the plans of V and Evey.

Perhaps inevitably, despite providing the catalyst for societal change, V is ultimately consumed by his vengeance.

This film is not afraid to take on issues that many vendors of popular culture would shy away from, and that inevitably will invite criticism. However as the poet Hardy once said "If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst". If you haven't already seen this film, get yourself a copy.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 31, 2013 1:29:59 PM PDT
P. Wilson says:
A superb essay on a superb film. I found your comments on the actors' performances spot on, especially Weaving, Hurt, and Graves, although I must say that to me, Portman has never equalled her performance in Leon. This offered me new insights into a fillm I have watched many times, so a hearty 'Well done'.
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