“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot?” These English, nursery rhyme lyrics are undoubtedly a great source of inspiration for the new film “V for Vendetta.” Similar to the famous rhyme, “V for Vendetta” chronicles one man’s crusade against an oppressive government.
The film takes place roughly two decades from present day. In this abysmal future, England has become a totalitarian state led by Adam Sutler (John Hurt) – a ruthless dictator who forces his people (by any means necessary) into submission. Our first glimpse of the film’s hero, known only as the letter V, comes when he saves Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) from being sexually assaulted by a pair of fascist officers. Outwardly, V (Hugo Weaving) is a combination of Zorro and the Phantom (from “Phantom of the Opera”) with matrix-like fighting ability, but beneath the black robes and Guy Fawkes mask, he is a mystery which reveals itself throughout the course of the story. It is November fourth in a world that has forgotten November fifth, but V has planned a potent reminder. At midnight, He and Evey watch as the Old Bailey courtrooms go up in flames. The government does their best to censor this attack, calling it a planned demolition the next day, but there is only so much they can do when V takes control of a television studio and goes on the air live, challenging the public to rise up against their oppressive leadership exactly one year from this day outside the houses of Parliament. “People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people,” he states.
Fearing for Evey’s safety, V takes her back to his lair where they await the coming of November fifth. Though resistant at first, Evey quickly develops compassion for V. She even offers her assistance after a while because she too carries a vendetta: While a child, the government murdered both of her parents who were prominent, political activists. Evey is strong, but openly admits to being afraid all of the time. Over the next several months she must overcome her fears and V must continue his preparations for the rapidly approaching November fifth when he plans on finishing what Guy Fawkes started in 1605. “? Guy Fawks, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent to blow up the king and the Parliament.”
This movie is taking a lot of heat from critics who claim that it advocates terrorism. In many ways the story does revolve around two opposing terrorists. There’s Sutler who exploit’s the bleak condition of his country to instill fear within his people and there’s V who uses violence and destruction to get his message across to the world. Seeing historical landmarks fall has become a sensitive issue these days and it occurs more than once throughout the film. However, these instances never result in the needless death of innocent civilians, but rather serve as a powerful cinematic tool. For example, the explosion of the Old Bailey courtrooms serve as a visual reference to the disintegration of that which the courtrooms once stood for, justice. It is important for people to remember that they are watching a movie. This is not a documentary, it’s purpose is not to promote anything, but rather to entertain. Terrorism has always and probably will always be a real problem in the world. I see no reason why the topic should be avoided in cinema. Common sense should tell the viewer that you should not go blow something up. It is no different than watching “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and knowing not to go on a killing spree with a chainsaw.
Weaving and Portman excel under the direction of James McTeigue, who has been assistant director in films like “Star Wars episode II” and “The Matrix” trilogy . Hugo Weaving does more as a voice behind a mask than most actors can do free of such restrictions and Natalie Portman, in what is likely her most challenging performance to date, is fascinating. Her facial expressions alone are so powerful, she could tell the entire story without ever uttering a single word. With a screenplay based on an 80’s graphic novel, the Wachowski brothers (writers of “The Matrix”) have once again created a unique piece of work on an epic scale. This film has all the elements of a blockbuster without insulting the viewers intelligence. It raises questions about government and freedom while offering insights into human nature. “V for vendetta” is beautiful, gripping, thought provoking and easily the best film Hollywood has delivered to the public so far this year. 10/10 stars