Loosely adapted from the 1988 10 issue series of comics by Alan Moore, published by DC Comics, this film is set in a dystopian England in which a corrupt government has gained power over the country to invoke a Nordic supremacy over the land, V for Vendetta follows the story of a antihero/terrorist known only as ‘V’, who crosses paths with a young woman named Evey Hammond, and soon forms a strong bond with her due to their shared ideals about the way the world should be.
The characters of the story are only a small part in the bigger picture of this film however, as the story concentrates heavily on the message that the citizens of Britain in this dystopian future, are to blame for their current state, because they buckled under the power of one man and remained silent despite all of the tragedy that happened around them. There is a history kept hidden by the corrupt members of the government which involves our mysterious titular character, and as the film goes on there are many twists and turns that slowly reveal the story of who V is, as well as why he does what he does.
The casting of this film is pure brilliance, with big name stars such as Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond, Stephen Rea as Finch, John Hurt as Adam Sutler, Stephen Fry as Deitrich, and of course Hugo Weaving as V. Together, along with supporting cast members, they create a world of characters that bring out the best and worst of the dystopian England.
Hugo Weaving’s performance as the masked vigilante/terrorist is an absolutely masterful performance, as we see the many sides of the character, and not a simple one dimensional being. From his tough exterior that he performs in the presence of his foes, to the disturbed and distressed human that he only reveals in his most private moments of solitude. Not to mention the fun and somewhat childlike side to him that includes re-enacting a fight sequence from a film, with a suit of armour, like a child pretending to fight with sticks. Weaving’s iconic voice brings a charm and ferocity to the character and has certainly become the voice I read the book in, in my mind.
The films strong message of revolution and standing up against the corrupt and powerful is one that should not be taken lightly. The film isn’t a simple plot with your typical Hollywood story of revolution, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to understand. It’s an interesting, thought provoking and beautifully crafted piece of cinema written by the Wachowskis, who are famous for their thought provoking films such as The Matrix. The plot takes place over a year, as V and Evey Hammond’s relationship grows stronger, and the government grows increasingly more worried about its future.
Accompanying the plot of the film comes the brilliant designs of the costumes and the stylistic effects of the certain scenes, such as V’s final battle in the underground, in which he takes out multiple adversaries wielding guns, with just his knives, after being shot with more bullets than any person could possibly withstand. When asked why he won’t die, V has the perfect response –
Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.V
This proves to be true as the finale of the film sees the citizens gather to watch the Houses of Parliament explode on November 5th, a year after the start of the film. The characters of the film all evolve throughout with Portman’s character of Evey Hammond, growing to be the potential understudy of V and in the end, even Stephen Rea’s character of Finch, realises what must be done, and allows Evey to flip the final switch on the train.
Whilst it is considered an action film and a comic book hero film, it plays more as a political thriller that see’s a lot of darker material merged within it’s main plot, which makes it a film that stands out in the world of comic book movies, especially with a titular character that is more than anything, a terrorist, depicted as a vengeful body for freedom.
One thing that makes this film very different from any it might be compared to, comes in the form of a subtle element. The mask that V wears, which depicts a smiling face of Guy Fawkes, which throughout the entire film, is the only face of V that we ever see. The mask itself has become synonymous with riots, and political gatherings which proves just how powerful this film was to many people, but more so, it became a representative face for the hacktivist group known only as “Anonymous”, so beyond the pages of the original comic, and beyond the production of the film, the ideas and imagery of V for Vendetta have become a very real part of the modern age of the world.
Overall, this film is stylistic, well written and a brilliant cast of characters who all perform their roles well, but none better than the limelight stealing portrayal of the titular character of V, by actor Hugo Weaving. I’d give this film a 4.5/5 because whilst it is one of my favourite films of all time, and I watch it religiously every November at least once, the film differs in many ways from the book. So as a film, it’s a brilliant piece of fiction, but as an adaptation, it loses that .5 point.
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