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V FOR VENDETTA

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt
Director: James McTeigue
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 132 Minutes
Release Date: August 1, 2006

“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”

Film ***

Had V For Vendetta been released in a different time, say a pre 9/11 era, the movie might have not carried a significance about it other than the fact that it is based on a graphic novel by the great Alan Moore. But the film is in fact significant for being the first film, certainly to be by mainstream Hollywood, since 9/11 and the war in Iraq to feature a hero whose very tactics against his enemies are characteristics of terrorism.

Can we say the movie is bold in that regard? I think we can.

The setting is London in the year 2020. The United States has been reduced to that of a civil war brought on by disease, extreme poverty and civil unrest. In England, things aren’t quite as bad, except for the fact that the country is being run by a fascist dictator named Adam Subtler (John Hurt). The idea here is the possibility of a Hitler-like figure running things in the future.

Citizens are ordered to a nightly curfew. Those who disobey are met with strict force by thuggish enforcers working on behalf of the dictator. That same extreme force comes very close to crossing paths with the beautiful and seemingly innocent Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), who has broken the curfew law unintentionally.

But she is saved unexpectedly by a masked figure known simply as V (Hugo Weaving).  He uses his dueling blades to strike down her attackers, but his presence only seems to make Evey more curious and startled. V then explains his purpose for his tactics, which come into heavy play every year on the 5th of November. He treats Evey to witness a spectacular show, in the form of the explosion of Old Bailey backed up by Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Though it’s clear to Evey that her savior is no different than a terrorist, it’s also clear what V’s true intention is; to destroy the evil Chancellor and restore freedom to the people of England. V then takes his battle to the airwaves. It just so happens Evey is employed at Britain’s sole Television broadcast network, which pretty much serves as a PR outlet for the Chancellor.

An intriguing side story involves a pursuit of V led by police Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) who, despite working for the Chancellor, has always been wary of his boss’ policies. The further the trail leads him, the more Finch realizes, and understands, what is being done and why.

Evey, meanwhile, gets arrested and threatened by forces if she does not deliver the whereabouts of V. She refuses to give such information. As a result, she is processed (with her head shaved), and is thrown in a dungeon like cell. During her time there, she learns secrets involving a number of individuals who had harsher force dealt upon them as a result of living a lifestyle objective to the corrupt government.

Since screenwriters Andy and Larry Wachowski know a thing or two about apocalyptic tales, they were perhaps the perfect writing visionaries to bring this film from the pages of the graphic novel to the big screen. A good bit of V For Vendetta does echo elements of their Matrix trilogy. Only instead of huge robotic machines threatening to rule the world, the threat in this story is, how should we say it…a bit more closer to home by comparison.

Having never read the graphic novel, I can somewhat assume that by the film’s glorious production design and special effects, that the adaptation was nothing short of dead on. Those qualities, along with the superb provocative qualities of the plot, help make V For Vendetta a tremendous and visually stunning apocalyptic tale.

Video ****

A solid visual presentation courtesy of WB! The futuristic setting and stunning all around style of the film are captured in a most outstanding form. Image quality is as crisp and clear as can be, which is saying something for a film that incorporates a great deal of dark/nighttime shots. Colors are quite mesmerizing as well.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix on this release results in one of the best audio presentations I’ve heard all year. There’s a lot going on in this film for the sound mix to work with. Everything from music score to moments of intense action help the sound system get a pure rockin’ reaction. Dialogue delivery is as clear as a bell, in addition.

Features ***1/2

This Two-Disc Special Edition release is indeed the one to pick up as it includes the most bonus material of the available releases. Though a commentary track is nowhere to be found, there is a nice bit to go around. Included are a number of well made documentaries; “Designing The Near Future”, “Remember, Remember: Guy Fawks And The Gunpowder Plot”, and “England Prevails: V For Vendetta And The New Wave In Comics”. Also included is a Cat Power Montage and a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

V For Vendetta is both an exuberantly made futuristic action thriller, while at the same time a serious film with some hard-hitting social commentary, and a lot of it to spare. Those elements, plus a fine cast lead by Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, make for a most engaging entertainment package.

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