V for Vendetta

It’s the future. America has fallen apart and England is the new superpower, ruled by a ruthless strongman who is desperate to hold onto power by any means. Horrific crimes have been committed and covered up to this end. The result of one of the worst is V, a disfigured but charismatic man who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and blows up buildings. Guy Fawkes was the Catholic insurgent who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. He’s still burned in effigy every November 5, the day he was arrested, in the United Kingdom.

Which raises the question: is V, played by Hugo Weaving, a terrorist or a freedom fighter? I suppose it depends on which side of the boot heel you’re on. By placing this story in England, Alan Moore and the filmmakers have forced us to examine this question which was relevant when Moore wrote the graphic novel during the height of Thatcherism over in the UK and oddly, it is relevant today, informed by the war on terrorism.

The Wachowski brothers who wrote the screenplay and produced this adaptation and James McTeigue, the director, have brilliantly used the elements of the superhero movie to examine Moore’s theme. Much of the story takes place on rooftops or in secret headquarters. The colors are vibrant and rich, especially the reds. The plot is operatic, that is outsized and very stylish, much like V himself.

It takes some stand out performances to pull this off. Chief among them is Weaving as the title character. He captures the charisma and vulnerability of V even though you never see his face. Natalie Portman, who plays Evie, a young woman who gets caught up in V’s plot is magnificent as she suffers the depredations of her government and the machinations of V. Stephen Rea brings his world weary face and gravitas to the role of Inspector Eric Finch, a detective who is just trying to do his job.

All this adds up to a dark parody of power politics, a sort of stylized 1984.

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