johnlink ranks V FOR VENDETTA (2005)

When I saw this in theaters ten years ago I remember liking it, but not appreciating it as much as others seemed to. I wasn’t as aware of the world political landscape back then. V FOR VENDETTA is a movie I have found myself thinking about some lately, certainly in part because the group Anonymous has attached themselves to the movie’s iconography. Finally got around to seeing it for a second time, and I am glad I did.


I watched V FOR VENDETTA (2005) on 1.27.15. It was my second viewing of the film, and first since its theatrical release.

V FOR VENDETTA is a bold and angry movie. The story uses November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day, as the platform from which to make strongly explosive political statements. The titular character, a burn victim named V (Hugo Weaving) who we always see masked, is on a revenge tour. He reluctantly entangles himself with Evey (Natalie Portman), a young woman who lives her life normally until V saves her in an ally and sets off a series of events which sees her being forced to live in his home.

The setting of the film is a dystopian England of the near-future. A right-wing religious zealot, Adam Sutler (John Hurt) has used a series of wars and health scares to wrestle control of the country. He runs everything through his state-run media system (which bears a none-too-subtle news philosophy with Fox News) and controls his citizens through curfew and fear. His military has rounded up those with deferring religious beliefs, those who are homosexuals, and those who voice opposition. His opponents disappear, most often dying in institutions with shadowy record keeping.

It was one of those institutions from which V escaped many years ago. After a couple of decades laying low, he is now coming back in a big way. He blows up buildings, makes grand speeches by hacking into the government network, and he uses the anonymity of his mask to allow the average citizen to help conceal his identity. It’s no wonder that modern political anti-government organizations, most namely Anonymous, have adopted the image of the Guy Fawkes mask. In that way, V FOR VENDETTA is one of the more politically influential movies of the 21st century.


Natalie Portman gives a riveting performance. We see the change in her from open to close. She starts the film as a beautiful young woman with long, enviable hair. She is decked out in a little black dress on her way to a social event which may help her career. By the end of the movie she has had her head forcibly shaved, though she voluntarily decides to keep the look, and ends up a gritty and powerful woman in quiet clothing. As a woman in her early 30s, Portman has somehow managed to have a landmark performance in each of the past three decades: In LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL in the 90s, in V FOR VENDETTA in the 00s, and in BLACK SWAN in the 10s.

Adding strength in supporting roles are Stephen Rea as the detective who is investigating the terrorist attacks, Stephen Fry as a loyal ally for Evey, and Natasha Wightman in a small (but heartbreaking role) that is a key to the change in Evey. Less impressive is Hugo Weaving’s central character. There is nothing bad there, but the voice and the body don’t always match up. It is not surprising to learn that some of the scenes were filmed by an earlier actor, some scenes by a stunt double, and others by Heaving. Additionally, his voice was entirely dubbed in post production. Again, this never ruins the film. It is just that his performance isn’t quite in line with the amazingly high quality of everyone else involved.

V FOR VENDETTA is the sort of movie you can theorize about. Want to pitch that V is actually Evey’s dad? You could make that argument. Think the movie is trying to incite people to riot? Sure! Is it your opinion that the movie intentional vilifies people who make hard decisions by making them caricatures rather than characters, thereby rendering mute the power of V’s vengeance? You could so!

It’s rorschach-like existence is one of the things that has made it a modern classic. In all honesty, I fully intended to go into this movie and think that ten years has made it feel dated and overrated. Instead, I walk away more impressed than I was the first time I saw it.




FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10


~ by johnlink00 on January 28, 2015.

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