With today’s movie review, I have completed reviews of films with names that begin with each letter of the alphabet. “V for Vendetta” marks the 305th individual movie review that I have written. In addition, I’ve also written an additional 25 other reviews about genres, forgotten greats, TV shows, sequels, remakes, etc., but it’s taken me this long to reach the alphabet goal. I’m fortunate that “V for Vendetta” is a terrific film with great work by just about every actor. I also considered the terrific “Vision Quest,” but took “V for Vendetta” to review now. I might still review “Vision Quest,” though. As I tried to find a movie to review for my “X” entry in the alphabet, I decided to cheat a little and write a review about a movie I hadn’t seen. It was “X-Men” and click here to find out how a reviewed a movie I didn’t see. You’ll find this one a bit more traditional, since I’ve seen “V for Vendetta” several times and like it a lot.
‘V for Vendetta’
(2006; 132 minutes; rated R; directed by James McTeigue and starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman and Rupert Graves)
A SOBERING STORY ABOUT LOST FREEDOM REGAINED
Action movies don’t always make you think and thinking films don’t always (if ever) have much action. However, there is quite the cerebral thriller that has excellent action and some kick-ass fight scenes. It’s “V for Vendetta” and it’s a movie about rebellion, rebels and a bleak, fascist future that appears coming closer every day.
I’m not going to even try to delve into this heavily layered and meaning-driven film. The nuances are too many and symbolism too deep in “V for Vendetta” – my experience reviewing such traits in film is completely limited. However, I do know outstanding acting when I see it – and in this case more accurately described as experiencing it. “V for Vendetta” should have won Oscars (at least one for Stephen Rea) and Golden Globes, but, sadly, wasn’t even nominated.
In a nutshell, the film is set in a future Great Britain that has isolated itself after installing a fascist government in the wake of global turmoil. You can also, like most reviewers, can call it a dystopian Great Britain. The “former” United States is nothing more than a mention on TV and political leaders are like Hitler with laws, rules and regulations that leave the country a repressed, dismal place. From this, a lone rebel named “V” has emerged to wage both psychological war and individual violence on the regime and some of its important officials. He is very good at it and marches inexorably toward the film’s climax. “V” is aided, abetted and becomes somewhat of a mentor to a young woman, who becomes her own symbol for how the post-vendetta country will emerge from the literal ashes of the previous government.
The film’s most symbolic and obvious visual is the “V’s” use of a Guy Fawkes mask. The film pushes the visual so well that is was immediately instituted in pop culture as a symbol of dissent. Even the name of the character “V” is layered, from a “Valerie” in his past to the Roman numeral V on the door of his cell and is just one of many examples of the intricacy of the plot.
Of course the only obvious thing about “V for Vendetta” is that the imagery of the county is Nazi-esque. It has black-booted marching soldiers; Gestapo-like “Fingermen;” a Josef Goebbels-efficient propaganda director; and (what was then) the all-encompassing technology of the “InterLink” computer network that helps keeps the populace in place.
Whew! That a mouthful!
In any case, you’ll enjoy most the work of virtually every actor who appears on screen. If any can be criticized, it’s for a minor flaw in a basically outstanding performance. So, here I go with a look at some of the principal cast:
- The ostensible co-star of the film is Hugo Weaving as “V.” Unlike his more-remembered turn as “Agent Smith” in “The Matrix” franchise, you don’t see Weaving – you just hear his somewhat deep voice with its intricate inflections. I’m not sure how to judge Weaving by this role, as it could be any actor speaking into a microphone and having it dubbed into the soundtrack (much like “Darth Vader”). Weaving has also been in “Captain America: First Avenger” and is in “Hacksaw Ridge” that’s coming out this November.
- The real star of the film is Oscar winner (not for this one) Natalie Portman, who plays “Evey Hammond.” She’s the young woman who finds herself at the center of “V’s” web and is the symbol of the entire country – she’s getting along but not liking what she’s seeing and having to be drawn out of her repression by a notion of what’s right. Portman gives a tour-de-force as “Evey” and does everything from being a white-collar worker to dressing as a schoolgirl to please a bishop (at least until “V” arrives to settle his own score) to a shaven-headed prisoner who is psychologically vilified as her loyalty to “V” is tested. Portman won her Oscar for “Black Swan” and was nominated for “Closer,” but I liked her better in … well, I haven’t seen much of her and I didn’t believe she did an acceptable job in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”
- It’s my opinion that Oscar nominee (not for this one) Stephen Rea as police “Inspector Eric Finch” gives the best performance here. It is low-key, intelligent and absolutely has no flaws. Rea conveys the wearisome attitude of his police position in which he knows too much and still manages to have a conscience. Rea played a similar kind of cop in an HBO film called “Citizen X” (click here to read my review), but that is based on facts and a factual detective. Here, he must not only battle keeping true his mission as a cop as well as his growing resentment of what’s happening in his country. Rea was nominated for “The Crying Game” but he was much, much better in both “Citizen X” and “V for Vendetta.”
- After Rea, the best work and most convincing actor is Tim Piggott-Smith as party leader “Peter Creedy.” He simply oozes the cruelty of his character and manages to convey it in every form – from dialogue to his body language and, of course, just a piercing glance. Piggott-Smith’s “Creedy” makes the evil “High Chancellor” ultimately cry in fear and is actually the nasty soul of the evil infecting the land. I haven’t seen Piggott-Smith in many films, but he’s been in a ton of TV series and was in the 007 stinker “Quantum of Solace” (none of the Daniel Craig efforts as “James Bond” are any good).
- The only criticism I have of any portion of an actor’s work is by John Hurt as “High Chancellor Adam Sutler.” Hurt’s only flaw is that he is too energetic in his denunciations of “V” and how he treats and threatens his underlings. He starts out bombastic and has nowhere to go but staying at that level. Hurt would have done a better job if he’d initially been less volatile and more creepily cruel before winding up and becoming a shouting, threatening maniac. Hurt was nominated for “Midnight Express” and “The Elephant Man” and I liked him better when something popped out of him in “Alien.”
- If there is a “fun” character here, it is Golden Globe nominee (not for this one) Stephen Fry as “Gordon Deitrich.” Fry’s character is a popular TV host, but he hides his homosexuality as well as his impressive collection of anti-government artifacts (including an Andy Worhol-like piece showing the High Chancellor in makeup and a dress and called “God Save the Queen”). Fry is wonderfully flippant as needed but gives his best work as he admits his hidden life to Portman. His Benny Hill-type of TV skit mocking the High Chancellor is simply sensational and leads to an unpleasantness being visited on him (I borrow the term “unpleasantness” from Fredrick Forsyth in his excellent novel “The Dogs of War” because it is so apropos here – and I always give credit, where credit is due). Fry was nominated for “Wilde” and voiced the “Cheshire Cat” in “Alice in Wonderland.”
Well, there are a half-dozen other worthy actors and their characters (from Rupert Graves as “Dominic Stone,” who is Rea’s assistant, to the really baddies who find themselves the victims of “V’s” revenge), but I don’t have time enough here to give them an individual look-see.
As to the brains behind “V for Vendetta,” it shouldn’t take you long to realize (if you didn’t know it already) that the film is the production of the then-called Wachowski brothers – the sibling team behind “The Matrix” franchise (they have since transgendered to being Lilly and Lana Wachowski). The movie is dark, complicated and its action scenes detailed and enthralling (they personally directed fight scene between “V” and “Creedy” and his men near the end of the film). In any case, “V for Vendetta” reveals their touch at every turn and you do a facepalm when you realize you shouldn’t have missed that they are the guiding genius behind it. In fact, they asked McTiegue to direct after he was second unit director on “The Matrix” and they were impressed with his work.
To my surprise, “V for Vendetta” was only the 35th ranked film at U.S. theaters in 2006 with $70.5 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s disappointing only because such a thoughtful, insightful film should have done better – but I guess that’s more of a comment on audiences than the film. “V for Vendetta” was made on a budget of $54 million and made $132.5 million worldwide, according to Wiki. The No. 1 film was “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” with $423.3 million. Here are the films from 2006 that I’ve reviewed:
- “Blood Diamond” (sensational) – click here for my review
- “The Departed” (even better than sensational) – click here for my review
- “Grandma’s Boy” (very funny stoner flick) – click here for my review
- “Thank You for Smoking” (also sensational) – click here for my review
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- IMDb.com lists “V for Vendetta” as a 2005 movie because it was a limited release at a film festival late that year – however, it’s a 2006 film for box office totals because it was released then in wide distribution.
- All of Weaving’s lines are dubbed into the soundtrack. Filmmakers tried having a microphone in his Guy Fawkes mask, but it didn’t work.
- James Purefoy was the original “V” over Weaving, but he left the production after a disagreement with filmmakers. Personally, I can’t say whether this is good or bad. I like Weaving and can’t recall seeing any of Purefoy’s work (he was in “A Knight’s Tale” but I can’t recall his work).
- For me, the actor with the most amusing name is Imogen Poots. She is “Young Valerie.” Poots (ha, ha … love that name) has been in “28 Weeks Later” and “Need for Speed.”
- Directly from IMDb.com: “The domino scene, where V tips over black and red dominoes to form a giant letter V, involved 22,000 dominoes. It took 4 professional domino assemblers 200 hours to set it up.”
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Evey mentions to Gordon Dietrich that ‘eggie in the basket’ is the same breakfast V made for her the first morning she spent at his place. She fails to mention (or doesn’t notice) that Dietrich and V also both greeted her in exactly the same way, not with “good morning” but with, ‘bonjour mademoiselle.’ Also, Stan Getz is playing in the background in both instances.”
- Click here for IMDb.com’s extensive trivia page for “V for Vendetta.”
© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2016.
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