V for Vendetta (2005)
Directed by James McTiegue
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” In an election year, a movie like “V for Vendetta” is always relevant. Based on a series of graphic novels (by the man who brought us “Watchmen”), this 2005 superhero/political thriller hybrid from director James McTeigue (“The Raven”) became an instant cult classic. Now I can see why.
In an Orwellian future-London, the government controls its people with curfews, video cameras, phony news networks, and censorship. But one man owns the night…a masked freedom-fighter seeking justice and revenge for the wrongdoings the government committed against him and the people. This is V, played with dark wit, sincerity, and passion by Hugo Weaving. When fate brings Evey (Natalie Portman) into V’s path, she begins to empathize with his cause. He’s labeled a terrorist by the government, the very people he aims to eliminate. On Guy Fawkes Day, V plans to bomb the Parliament building and symbolically end the destructive regime. But is he helping or hurting this sorry society? Will England prevail, or will justice be served by the only man who can?
At its core, “V for Vendetta” relies on its veritable virtuoso vigilante, V. And who better to play the fiery, perverse live-wire than Hugo Weaving? The masked crusader, donning the now-famous Guy Fawkes face, will be one of the most memorable characters in film history, if only for the face that is never revealed. To accompany him, Natalie Portman gives a commendable performance. Acting legend and two-time Oscar-nominee John Hurt adds his poise as the Big Brother-esque chancellor. The acting is icing on the cake, but it’s not what gives this film its punch.
Calling it simply a superhero movie or an action movie would be a great dishonor to the film’s profound, impassioned script (written by the Wachowskis, “The Matrix”). It has the complexity of a great piece of literature with the comprehendible linear storyline of most superhero movies. It profounds upon themes like justice and compassion and freedom (Happy Independence Day, America!) but serves it on a platter fit for its intended audience—everyone. But it’s also filled with action and thrills, violence and fast-paced energy that keep you on your toes. And the grand finale of this concerto is something worth waiting over two hours for.
I guarantee you’ll remember, remember, “V for Vendetta” the first time you see it. It gets to you, whether you want it to or not.