Sunday, 19 February 2012

V for Vendetta (2005)

V for Vendetta is a 2005 dystopian thriller film directed by James McTeigue and produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers, who also wrote the screenplay. It is an adaptation of the V for Vendetta comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Set in London in a near-future dystopian society, Natalie Portman stars as Evey, a working-class girl who must determine if her hero has become the very menace he is fighting against. Hugo Weaving plays V—a bold, charismatic freedom fighter driven to exact revenge on those who disfigured him. Stephen Rea portrays the detective leading a desperate quest to capture V before he ignites a revolution.

The film was originally scheduled for release by Warner Bros. on Friday, November 4, 2005 (a day before the 400th Guy Fawkes Night), but was delayed; it opened on March 17, 2006, to positive reviews. Alan Moore, having already been disappointed with the film adaptations of two of his other graphic novels, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, after reading the script for V for Vendetta refused to view the film and subsequently distanced himself from it.

The film had been seen by many political groups as an allegory of oppression by government; libertarians and anarchists have used it to promote their beliefs. Activists belonging to the group Anonymous use the same Guy Fawkes mask popularized by the film when they appear in public at numerous high-profile events, emulating one of its key scenes. Artist David Lloyd is quoted saying: "The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way."

The Plot

In the 2030s, the world is plagued by environmental blight and the United Kingdom is ruled by a totalitarian government under the fascist Norsefire party. The party sets up concentration camps where political prisoners, homosexuals, Black people, Pakistanis and Muslims in general are exterminated by Britain's new fascist regime. Evey Hammond, a young woman who works at the state-run British Television Network, is rescued from an attempted rape perpetrated by members of the secret police (referred to as "Fingermen" by Evey) by a Guy Fawkes-masked vigilante known as "V". He leads her to a rooftop to watch his destruction of the Old Bailey. Norsefire tries to explain away the incident as a controlled demolition, claiming the building was no longer structurally sound, but V takes over the state television broadcast the same day, exposing the lie. He urges the people of Britain to rise up against the oppressive government and meet him in one year, on 5 November, outside the Houses of Parliament, which he promises to destroy. Evey helps V to escape, but is knocked out in the process.

V brings Evey to his lair, where she is told that she must stay in hiding until the 5th of November in the following year for her own safety. Upon learning that V is killing government officials, she escapes to the home of her boss, comedian Gordon Deitrich (Stephen Fry). One night, Gordon satirises the government on his television show. The secret police raid Deitrich's home, capturing him and Evey. She is incarcerated and tortured for days for information about V. She finds solace in notes written by another prisoner, an actress named Valerie Page (Natasha Wightman), who was arrested for being a lesbian. Finally, Evey is told that she will be executed immediately unless she reveals V's location. An exhausted but defiant Evey says she would rather die, and is released. Evey discovers that she has been in V's lair all along, and that her imprisonment was staged to free her from her fears. She finds out Deitrich was executed for having a copy of the Quran. The notes were real, but they were passed by Valerie to V years earlier when he was similarly imprisoned. Although Evey initially hates V for what he did to her, she realizes she now feels stronger and free in spirit. She leaves him with a promise to return before the 5th of November.

Inspector Finch, Scotland Yard's chief of police, learns how Norsefire came to power and about V's origins in the course of his investigation. Fourteen years earlier, the United States had collapsed, the victim of an unleashed bio-weapon, which was secretly and deliberately utilized by the people who would become the core of the group Norsefire. It is also mentioned later on that the United States is suffering another civil war between the Midwestern states. Britain suffered in the resulting chaos. Norsefire led a reactionary purge to restore order, during which "enemies of the state" — anyone who did not meet the Party's standards of "purity" — frequently disappeared. The country was divided over the loss of freedom until a coordinated bio-terrorist attack upon a school, a water treatment plant and a tube station resulted in around 80,000 deaths. The fear generated by the attack allowed Norsefire to win the next election, thereafter silencing all opposition and turning the United Kingdom into a totalitarian state under High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt). A cure for the virus used in the bio-terrorist attack was later unveiled by a pharmaceutical company with ties to Norsefire. Finch comes to realize that Sutler and his now security chief, Peter Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith), engineered the catastrophe to seize power. The virus was developed through deadly experimentation on "social deviants" and political dissidents at a detention centre in Larkhill where V had been detained with Valerie Page. Unlike the rest of the doomed prisoners, V gained heightened abilities and managed to escape when the centre was destroyed. Finch realizes that a string of murders involving high profile Norsefire party members are actually V taking revenge on those involved with Larkhill.

As the 5th of November nears, V's various schemes cause chaos in the UK and the population starts questioning Norsefire's rule. V organizes the distribution of thousands of Guy Fawkes masks. On the eve of the 5th, Evey visits V, who shows her a train in the abandoned London Underground which he has filled with explosives to destroy Parliament. He leaves it up to Evey whether to use it, believing that he is unfit to decide. V then leaves to meet Creedy, who had made a deal with V to hand over Sutler in exchange for V's surrender. Creedy kills Sutler in front of V, but V refuses to surrender and is shot multiple times by Creedy's praetorian guard. V survives due in part to his concealed armour breastplate, and kills Creedy and his men. Mortally wounded, V returns to Evey to thank her, and he tells her that he is in love with her. He dies in her arms.

As Evey places V's body in the train, she is found by Finch. Having learned much about the corruption of the Norsefire regime, Finch allows Evey to send the train on its way. Thousands of Londoners, all wearing the Guy Fawkes masks but unarmed, march on Parliament to watch the event. Because Sutler and Creedy are dead and unable to give orders, the military stands down in the face of a civil rebellion. Accompanied by the "1812 Overture", Parliament and Big Ben are destroyed as Evey and Finch look on. Finch asks Evey for the identity of V, to which she replies, "he was all of us."


The critical reception of the film was mixed to positive. Ebert and Roeper gave the film a "two thumbs up" rating. Roger Ebert stated that V for Vendetta "almost always has something going on that is actually interesting, inviting us to decode the character and plot and apply the message where we will". Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton from At the Movies stated that despite the problem of never seeing Weaving's face, there was good acting and an interesting plot, adding that the film is also disturbing, with scenes reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Jonathan Ross from the BBC blasted the film, calling it a "woeful, depressing failure" and stating that the "cast of notable and familiar talents such as John Hurt and Stephen Rea stand little chance amid the wreckage of the Wachowski siblings' dismal script and its particularly poor dialogue." Sean Burns of Philadelphia Weekly gave the film a 'D', criticizing the film's treatment of its political message as being "fairly dim, adolescent stuff," as well as expressing dislike for the "barely decorated sets with television-standard overlit shadow-free cinematography by the late Adrian Biddle. The film is a visual insult." On Alan Moore removing his name from the project, Burns says "it's not hard to see why," as well as criticising Portman's performance: "Portman still seems to believe that standing around with your mouth hanging open constitutes a performance." Harry Guerin from the Irish TV network RTÉ states the film "works as a political thriller, adventure and social commentary and it deserves to be seen by audiences who would otherwise avoid any/all of the three". He added that the film will become "a cult favourite whose reputation will only be enhanced with age." Andy Jacobs for the BBC gave the film two stars out of five, remarking that it is "a bit of a mess... it rarely thrills or engages as a story."

V for Vendetta received few awards, although at the 2007 Saturn Awards Natalie Portman won the Best Actress award. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 73% "Certified Fresh" approval rating; however, the rating from the 'top critics' was lower at 63%. The film was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form in 2007. V was included on Fandomania's list of The 100 Greatest Fictional Characters. Empire magazine named the film the 218th greatest of all time.

The Cast

Natalie Portman as Evey
 Hugo Weaving as V
 Stephen Rea as Finch
 Stephen Fry as Deitrich
 John Hurt as Adam Sutler
 Tim Pigott-Smith as Creedy
 Rupert Graves as Dominic
 Roger Allam as Lewis Prothero
 Ben Miles as Dascomb
 Sinéad Cusack as Delia Surridge
 Natasha Wightman as Valerie
 John Standing as Lilliman
 Eddie Marsan as Etheridge
  Ian Burfield as Tweed Coat Fingerman
 Mark Phoenix as Willy Fingerman
 Alister Mazzotti as Baldy Fingerman
 Guy Henry as Heyer
 Cosima Shaw as Patricia

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