V For Vendetta

 
Directed by: James McTeigue
Written by:Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Rupert Graves
Released: March 30, 2006
Grade: A-

The setting is London in the not to distant future.  Terror has spread around the globe.  After a civil war broke out in the United States, the citizens of the UK elected a conservative government to keep them and their country safe.  Under the leadership of Prime Minister Adam Sutler (Hurt), this government has become somewhat of a dictatorship.  They have maintained their power by instilling fear in the population.  Those who don’t fit the mould of an ideal citizen are taken from their homes and never seen again.

On the 5th of November, a masked man seizes control of a television studio and broadcasts a message to the world.  He identifies himself simply as V (Weaving).  He promises to blow-up the Palace of Westminster, home to the UK parliament, in exactly one year’s time.

This may sound like the threat of a terrorist but there’s something different about the mysterious V.  As the police investigate, they uncover ties to a secret government experiment at a psychiatric facility in Lockwood.  All records relating to the experiment have been destroyed and Detective Finch (Rea) is struggling to work out the connection with V’s actions.

Inadvertently drawn into V’s plans is a young officer worker named Evey (Portman).  The pair met by chance and became unlikely friends.  Evey’s parents were killed by the government when she as a child and her life has been one of adversity ever since.  She understands the mastery of V’s plan and realises that his threats are only part of a scheme and a story which goes much deeper…

The film’s subject matter is sure to attract controversy.  Written by the creators of The Matrix Trilogy, V For Vendetta will raise eyebrows in the way it seemingly promotes terrorism.  Some will find it distasteful but if you’re prepared to open up to it, the film has a lot to say about fear and its role in society today.  It scrutinises the power of governments and the media and puts them face-to-face with the power of the people.

Australian Hugo Weaving stars in what is a very unusual role.  You never get to see his face (only the mask) and his powerful presence is created simply by his slow-talking voice and his body language.  I believe the film achieves so much more by keeping the identity of this character hidden.  You aren’t judging him by his appearance but rather on what he has to say.

Natalie Portman is also superb in a performance which required her to shave her entire head.  You actually get to see this scene in the film as it happened (no special effects required).  It shows the courage that Portman has above other actress who wouldn’t dare approach such a role.

There are a few elements to the story that don’t work but on the whole, this is a great film with strong political views.  It reminded me very much of Fight Club (the 1999 flick with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton) and I’ll guarantee that few films this year will give you as much to think about.