Classic Movie Review: V for Vendetta (2005)

Posted: June 30, 2013 in Drama
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In the near future, Britain is the last remaining superpower, America has been saddled with an ongoing civil war and is no longer the dominant power in the world.  Unfortunately, England has turned into a dictatorship, enforced by Fingermen, armed, roving, extensions of the surveillance state.  Evey (Natalie Portman) is walking down the street when she is accosted by three Fingermen, but she is saved by V, (Hugo Weaving) a man in a Guy Fawkes mask, who kills the Fingermen, and saves Evey.  It is November 4, and V invites Evie to watch him blow up the Old Bailey as a sign of defiance against the dictatorship of Adam Sutler. (John Hurt)  After the Old Bailey is blown up, the police want to track down Evey as a witness to the destruction. V promises to blow up Parliament in a year, as Guy Fawkes tried to, the race is on to stop him, but V has a plan to bring down the corrupt government.

V’s next target is Lewis Prothero (Roger Allam) a tv show host, who was also in charge at the Larkhill resettlement camp, a camp for anyone the current regime deems unacceptable.  Prothero ends up dead, as does Father Lilliman, (John Standing) a pedophile priest, who was also at Larkhill.  When V kills Delia Slurridge (Sinead Cusack), a scientist at the resettlement camp, Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) is intent on arresting Evey, thinking that she will lead him to V.  Evey is detained at Larkhill, will she give up V?  What happened at Larkhill that set V on his murderous course against corrupt dictator Sutler?  Does V keep his promise to blow up the Parliament building?

I love this movie.  The reason why is that it asks a very intriguing question, is it justifiable to use violence to bring down a violent autocratic dictatorship?  The answer is no, in my humble opinion, history is replete with examples of situations where non-violence brought down corrupt leaders or systems.  Gandhi ended British colonialism in India, Martin Luther King ended segregation in the American South, the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were relatively non-violent and even the sectarian strife in Ireland ended as a result of peace accords.  Nonetheless, the question is an interesting one, as are the stories of the people deemed unacceptable at Larkhill, there are effective echoes of concentration camps in Nazi Germany.  Where the story goes a bit off the rails is when it engages in a conspiracy theory involving the dictator Sutler.  Conspiracy theories always make me wince, this is no exception.  What makes me think this is a classic is the excellent acting of Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, both who make the viewer believe there is no alternative to bring down this corrupt government.   Weaving delivers his lines with an almost Shakespearian cadence, and his voice is almost lyrical.  Portman sometimes lays the British accent on a bit too thick, but she gives a very emotional and wide ranging performance.  There are a lot of very good supporting performances by Stephen Rea, as Finch, and Roger Allam as a loud-mouthed tv host.

The violence, and there is a lot of it is a product of the Wachowski brothers, who became famous for their over-the-top violence in the Matrix trilogy.  If you have a problem with violence, and lots of people do, please do not watch.  I believe that there are enough redeeming elements in the other parts of the story to make a certain amount of violence acceptable.

V for Vendetta.  V for Very good.


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