V For Vendetta (15)

Directed by James McTeigue
Written by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski (screenplay), Alan Moore (graphic novel)
On general release from 17th March 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

It is just as well for the team behind the Matrix trilogy that the 'glorification' of terrorism has yet to become a criminal offence in the UK. If it had, they might possibly have found themselves on the wrong side of the law by now, and this film would not have been shown. But that is precisely the point, and is why V For Vendetta is so important.

The Wachowskis take current trends in British politics and push them fourteen years further. Their predictions probably won't be entirely accurate, but then neither was George Orwell's 1984. In fact, it could be said that the film is a 1984 for the 21st century.

Almost standing the anarchist 'circled A' symbol on its head, the masked terrorist/freedom fighter named 'V' (Hugo Weaving) is on a mission to overthrow the fascist government of Adam Sutler (John Hurt). One night, he discovers Evey (Natalie Portman) being 'interrogated' by secret agents for breaking curfew. After saving the young woman's skin, saying "Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose" and asking about her taste in music, he takes Evey to see the Old Bailey exploding. It is the fifth of November, and V remember remembers Guy Fawkes' plot to blow up Parliament. He wants to succeed where his predecessor failed.

Matrix fans will recognise a few themes from that series. Yep, there are a few good slow-motion fight scenes. There are hints of great philosophical questions. There are also a few things that don't quite make sense. But basically, V is Neo - the secular saviour. The totalitarian state shown here is quite similar to the idea of the machines he fought against, but then perhaps it should be the other way round. After all, the Wachowskis apparently pored over Alan Moore's anti-Thatcher polemic when it came out, and claim they were working on V For Vendetta before they even started on Neo and co. Now they’ve updated the whole shooting match for Blair, Brown and the Sutlers that may well come after if we’re not careful.

It is difficult to recommend Hugo Weaving's performance, since it's impossible to be sure that it actually is him under the mask and all that clobber. In fact, V sounds remarkably like Blackadder era Rowan Atkinson. Unfortunately, Natalie Portman does in this film what she seems to do in every other - namely underact whilst looking v-aguely pretty if you like that sort of thing. Her performance - coupled with the odd clunky line of the kind that blighted Matrixes 2 and 3 - nearly spoils the whole experience. But V for Vendetta is rescued by its v-ision, political insight and the sheer coolness of seeing certain buildings get v-iolently rearranged. The Daily Telegraph dismissed it as 'Veritably, a vacuous and vapid venture', but then it would. I'd say it was more of a vitally veracious and vincular vehicle. Not that I'm glorifying it or anything.

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