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V for Vendetta (2006)

by on 2012/04/30

“I’d only told them the truth. Was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us but, within that inch, we are free.”

* * * * *

Vaguely reminiscent of Children of Men, given its viral plague back story, I enjoyed this adaptation rather more. Based on Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s acclaimed series, V for Vendetta, it is less a religious parable than political metaphor.

A strong cast anchors the tale of an avenger driven by ideals, not superpowers. Perhaps, at that, there are actually two avengers. “V” is the alias of the elder mentor (The Matrix’s Hugo Weaving), and Evey Hammond (Thor’s Natalie Portman) as his young apprentice.

They are joined by Stephen Fry (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), John Hurt (Alien), and Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire) in combining aspects of The Count of Monte Cristo’s structure and Guy Fawkes’ rebellious intent, against a Nazi-like infrastructure.

After being victimized by the state, V transforms himself into a masked figure who defends the rights of the oppressed, including gays and lesbians, public dissenters, and those who preserve forbidden cultural artifacts. In rescuing Evey early on, he adopts her in the hopes she might succeed him. However, his methods give her occasional pause, and raise the attention of the law, intent on stopping them both, no matter the cost.

I was impressed Weaving would take this anonymous — literally faceless — role. He could easily have narrated a stand-in actor’s performance, yet his physical presence lent subconscious compensation for the absence of facial cues. The ambiguity of his ever-present mask never kept me too distant from him. Instead I imagined him smiling wryly behind — and through — his cover.

On the other hand, ironically, I was comparatively distanced from Evey. Portman’s voice distracted me greatly, and I failed get over it. Why didn’t her activist parents hail from a country whose accent she could credibly affect? I had few issues otherwise. I thought she did a reasonable job overall. Any quibbles I have are with her character and the speechifying, not in how she interpreted the part.

And though I have serious concerns about lionizing its hero, V for Vendetta makes valuable viewing to spur discussion beyond the fiction. Its sociopolitical aspirations are renounced by co-creator Moore but — despite this disagreement — they’re as thought-provoking as fun. If all you see is a fantasy, you may find it less than perfect, but adding debate to the swashbuckling tale makes it all the more engrossing.

* * * * *

Rated 14A (Canada) / R (United States)

132 minutes

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