Review No. 578
V for Vulnerable as well as V for Vivacious.
Director — James McTeigue
Producers — Joel Silver, the Wachowski brothers, Grant Hill
Screenplay — the Wachowski brothers
Based on — V for Vendetta by David Lloyd
Natalie Portman — Evey Hammond
Hugo Weaving — V
Stephen Rea — Eric Finch
John Hurt — High Chancellor Adam Sutler
Distributor — Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date — December 11, 2005 (USA)
Language — English
Country — United Kingdom
Running Time — 2 hours, 12 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
MPAA Description — strong violence and some language
V FOR VENDETTA WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 16, 2013.
The fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”
V for Vendetta is “an uncompromising vision of the future from the creators of The Matrix trilogy.” I didn’t make that up. It’s on just about every one-sheet, and it’s placed without quotes, without an ascription. It’s like a tagline, and it’s actually one of the most accurate taglines I’ve ever come by. Yes, it’s a vision of the future. Yes, it was written and produced by the Wachowski brothers [SEE FOOTNOTE], who spent the turn of the century directing, writing, and producing the aforementioned box office successes. So we know two things: one, it’ll make money, and two, it’ll probably be original and neat.
It also has its share of flaws, and you can tell they’re not leftovers to grab for those who hated The Matrix sequels. The word “uncompromising” is the real glowing beacon of light in the tagline. Clearly, it’s in reference to the harsh, visceral attitude of the movie, but this attitude could have been strengthened by less compromises on the crew’s part. The Wachowskis are listed elsewhere as uncredited second unit directors. You can tell the Wachowskis really wanted to direct, and when they get their hands on just a few scenes, the style becomes dynamic, soaring, and one with their screenplay. My question is, why didn’t they just direct every minute of it, rather than paying it forward to James McTeigue? He’s their assistant director all too often, but he seems like the guy left for filler scenes. He had to break free of the Wachowskis in order to do his second and third films, the critically panned Ninja Assassin and The Raven. This is a damn fine directorial debut, but I think they were foreshadowed at the last second: the end credits feature the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” in its most unexplainably weird placement to date.
The story is dystopian: putting it in small terms, society takes control, brainwashes its peoples in for so that violent actions can be taken against them if they disobey (that’s historical Third Reich additive to the dystopia), and tries to hunt down the clever vigilante known only as “V” (Hugo Weaving) who seems to be terrorizing the city. But he’s actually helping them, and he sees that with an ally as intelligent as Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), he’ll stop the madness. Natalie Portman makes up for the inability to connect with Hugo Weaving. Weaving plays an almost emotionless bastard, for those who once thought it of Malcolm McDowell. He’s always wearing a mask with a clownish smile, so we can’t really tell if he’s crying or laughing. Though he sounds evil and cheerful when he wants to kill people, and never less so. Portman is his needed half, and she changes so much, the “1812 Overture” becomes a totally different experience for her over the course of two hours. I worry more about spoiling her role than the movie. I’ll spoil the Oscar snubbing, though not even the visuals in V for Vendetta were accounted for by the Academy.
This is a very inventive movie. McTeigue may not know style, but substance doesn’t require effort for him. The screenplay is witty, intense, and genuinely offbeat. Not only does this make its satisfying way through, so does the love for the film as its own work. Alan “Watchmen” Moore, though uncredited, wrote V for Vendetta as his debut comic series between 1982 and 1989; as far as I’m concerned, this is more of a story-shared homage than a full-blown adaptation. I mean, it homages everything it takes inspiration from, and recreates a poco-a-poco literary compilation from that. If you’re familiar with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, or Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, you’ll quite likely feel like you’ve seen V for Vendetta before. It tries to be the national anthem for its amalgamated dystopia, but instead, it’s a museum featuring only the most important parts of dystopian fiction, or just what will fit.
What Maisie Knew
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NOTE: Back in 1999, the Wachowskis were credited as “the Wachowski brothers” for their direction and writing of The Matrix. Since then, however, Larry Wachowski has undergone a sex-change operation and become Lana Wachowski; you’ll notice them credited as “the Wachowskis” in their 2012 film Cloud Atlas.