V for Vendetta is an ideological tour de force, in intense depiction of the rigours of a totalitarian state that, apart from the occasional artistic indulgences characteristic of all movies with a strong plot, doesn’t offer much in the way of compromises.
The story follows a vigilante of sorts named V – played to perfection by Hugo Weaving – who seeks to topple a fascist party named Norsefire that has come to power in Great Britain in the 2020s, in a world that includes perpetual warring and a balkanized West. Even though V’s intentions seem straightforward at first, it is revealed toward the middle of the movie that, in an attempt to strengthen their rise to power, two ambitious politicians – Peter Creedy and Adam Sutler – engineered a disguised pogrom, deployed it against the people of Britain, and blamed the attack on terrorists, a move reminiscent of Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984.
The people unite in the face of adversity and turn to the most accessible solution, an organization promising security, named Norsefire. The pogrom involves a bioweapon in the form of a virus, a cure for which is developed and tested at the secluded Larkhill Detention Centre. The camp eventually succumbs to an accidental fire, leaving V, an inmate, alive because of his enhanced powers as a result of the medication.
Shortly after Norsefire’s ascension to power, the cure is marketed to generate exorbitant revenues to proliferate and sustain the party’s works. Inspector Finch, the detective assigned by Creedy to track down V, uncovers this truth of the party, and consequently, the intensity of his duty-bound efforts decline, but also because he becomes increasingly curious about V’s plan of action. Ultimately, V strikes a deal with Creedy: Sutler’s life for V’s surrender, which would place Creedy in line with his ambition to become High Chancellor. However, in spite of an ambush, Creedy and his men are killed, even though V is also left critically injured.
Evey Hammond, an accomplice of V’s who also provides for the occasional but just as necessary emotional component of the plot, embraces him for one last time as he dies in her arms, places his body in one of the trains of the London Underground that V has packed with explosives, and sends it on its way to blowing up the Houses of Parliament, fulfilling both V’s promise made a year earlier as well as giving him a Norse funeral.
James McTeigue, the director, seems to have played his part in the production, and he’s done well to keep the talents of Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Weaving and Portman within the thin boundaries of a story easily capable of leading them astray. Weaving has done well to portray V as a man abused by his own government, a man still yet aware of his country’s necessities and determined to pursue them. His acting is crisp and spontaneous, although at times it seems to borrow from the labours of a skilful camerawork to dominate the scene.
Natalie Portman, though quite typical and unfortunately stiff with her body in the first half of the movie, goes on to justify her selection for the part of Evey. However, her acting continuously fails to convince the viewers of its capability to fill up the screen. Revelling in niches, though being a tricky trade, also imparts a sense of security, an insulation against failure, and that’s the niche within which Portman does excel.
On the other hand, however, there is not much choice availed to present-day production houses in terms of making it as an artistic as well as a commercial success. The nifty editing, aided by a packed storyline that contributes to the “something happening all the time” sensation, offers for a thrilling watch. Together with the linearly laid out narrative, they allow for the audience to decide between being more impressed by the screenplay or by the camerawork. In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss to conclude that both are true.
It is only unfortunate that Alan Moore, the creator of V in his original 10-issue comic, distanced himself from the adaptation. Comics and movies address different audiences in their entirety, which is also why the choice of the Wachowski siblings was appropriate. Their previous production, the Matrix trilogy, addressed a similar story of rebellion and conflict, albeit on planetary scales. Even more: their choice of imagery – neo-noir and dystopian – seems to have been chosen by them as a necessity, a trademark.
The score by Dario Marianelli is also quite appropriate. With its sizeable doses of European classical music, it imparts a formal aesthetic texture that plays its part in building up the intensity of each scene, instead of allowing for an easy deconstruction into metaphors that any other kind of music may have accomplished. Overall, the movie easily reaches a 4 on 5 but lacks on count of many small imperfections – such as the occasional dearth of intention to make some scenes more powerful, more exciting – to deserve the last point for a full score.