V for Vendetta
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir James McTeigue
scr The Wachowski Brothers
with Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Rupert Graves, Tim Pigott-Smith, Roger Allam, Sinéad Cusack, Natasha Wightman, John Standing, Ben Miles
release US/UK 17.Mar.06
06/US Warner 2h12

Are you my father: Portman and the masked Weaving

portman weaving rea hurt fry graves

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V for Vendetta This stylish and thrilling film is so gorgeously visual and thematically resonant that we don't really mind if the characters are a bit shallow. At least they're played with intelligence and subtlety.

Evey (Portman) is a young woman caught up in revolution when she's kidnapped by the masked terrorist V (Weaving), who's unleashing horrible vengeance on London's government. The manipulative dictator Sutler (Hurt) sends both cops (Rea and Graves) and a government henchmen (Pigott-Smith) after both V and Evey. And as things escalate into all-out mayhem, Evey starts to think for herself, realising that V might be a good guy fighting a system that has systematically murdered and lied to the nation.

Yes, this storyline has strikingly resonant political undercurrents, which might strike too-biased ideological notes for some viewers. As a whole, the themes are subtle and clever, but there are razor sharp points along the way, and as the story sweeps to a nicely controlled finale, it becomes edgy and deeply provocative, lingering in our minds and forcing us to thing about terrorism from the other side of the coin--namely, the terrorism that gave us "liberty" to begin with.

The cast is also intriguingly layered, making the most of characters that are simplistically written. Portman and Rea are especially good; Fry is engagingly droll as always. And Weaving does wonders with his role, even though we never see his face. Not only is the mask skilfully designed, but Weaving uses minimalist vocal and bodily inflections to convey the character, never going for obvious miming or theatricality.

There are visual and thematic echoes from Zorro to Phantom, and the plot feels in many ways like a gritty action sequel to Orwell's 1984. And while there's a definite feeling of style over substance, it's still so bracingly original on screen, and grippingly personal in tone, that we can't help but get swept along with it. So when in the end it surprises us with a jolt of raw emotion, and we can actually see the nobility in a horrific terrorist act, the film really gets us thinking. And that's never a bad thing.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 27.Feb.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... V for Vendetta V for Vendetta V for Vendetta V for Vendetta Pixiewix, Wimbledon: 5/5 "I wish they'd released this on November 5th - the only way it could be more perfect would be to watch it on that night. Rescheduling it for March 17th was a bit odd! The film has everything - romance, mystery, humour (loved the TV skit!), political scheming, a wronged anti-hero outwitting the real villains, arse-kicking action scenes - what more could you want? The script wobbles occasionally - didn't they have any Brits on set to correct the Americanisms? - but this doesn't detract from the excitement of the story. Cleverly updated from the original graphic novel, which I suppose most people are going to go out and buy, if only to compare with the screenplay. I loved it. More of this kind of thing please!" (20.Mar.06)

Graham Cox, net: 5/5 "'Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.' V for Vendetta is viciously violent at times and venerably vulnerable to criticism. In other words, the movie goes out on a limb and presents an idea that can be accepted just as easily as it can be rejected. The movie is full of cheesy dialogue and overblown drama that might alienate even the biggest fans of the comic book. But who cares, it's the idea that matters! Or, at least it did to me. I loved this movie. The acting was superb, the plot was brilliant, and the fight scenes were alot of fun." (24.Mar.06)

© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall