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v for vendetta

V for Vendetta (2005 - R)

"V for Vendetta" is the psyhcoligical thriller/black satire that comments on the possibility of a resurrection of Western fascism.  Set in the near future, Britain has succumb to total domination by an extreme fascist, Chancellor Sutler, and his Nazi-esque brigade.  Enter the anti-hero, V, who attempts to liberate the people, by any and all means necessary, and Evey, the innocent bystander who's life is about to change in ways unforeseeable.

The cast includes: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt, and Stephen Fry.

Written by: David Lloyd and Alan Moore (comic book), Andy and Larry Wachowski (screenplay).

Directed by: James McTeigue.

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Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Drama, Action.

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The film opens with a historical preface:  the year is 1605 and a man by the name of Guy Fox intends to blow up British Parliament as a symbolic gesture of liberating the people from a corrupt government.  But, alas, Supreme Power intervenes and his plot is foiled.  He is executed.

Pan now to the near future where Britain is being controlled by the Supreme Big Brother: an ultimate state of fascism inflicting total control and censorship over its people.  It is a new age Hitler regime, headed by British Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt).  Flying Nazi-esque insignia, the “enslaved” British people live in fear of the “red and black” and all things government related, which is of course, everything.

So it happens that, in this near future, on November 4th, the eve of the infamous night- Nov. 5th- a young girl by the name of Evey (Natalie Portman) is walking the streets in hopes of visiting a fellow coworker.  But it is past curfew and the Chancellor’s goons intervene and threaten her safety.  Enter the antihero:  V (Hugo Weaving).  Clad in a conspicuous mask, and black cape, suit, and hat, this “dramatic persona” is part Zorro part Batman: he is the ultimate antihero, seeking justice through vengeance; vengeance through death; truth through the power of words.

Hesitant to take kindly to the man, Evey regrettably joins V in witnessing his peculiar “symphony,” which includes the surprising destruction of the infamous monument, Old Bailey, at the strike of 12am in an attempt to garner the attention of the High Chancellor and his fascist regime.  Mission accomplished. 

It isn’t long before Chancellor and local authorities realize they’re dealing with a terrorist intending to resurrect the ideas of the ill-fated Guy Fox so many years ago.  Sutler has, in short, a native terrorist on his hands: a freedom fighter in the guise of justice through vengeance, and a man with a vendetta towards all affiliated with the current corrupt state of Britain.

Though Evey disappears from V’s sight for the better part of the next few hours, the following day, at Evey’s work- the government controlled TV broadcasting station, BTN- she is privileged with a second introduction after V seizes control of the network and launches his own segment, “V TV,” during which he requests the rallying support of his fellow citizens, one year from the day: November 5th.  One year from the day V promises to make a stand and destroy Parliament once and for all.   Why?  Because, according to V, something is very wrong with the country: people are disappearing, ideas are being censored, free speech is a distant thought, and all personal liberties are cut off for the sake of a controlled state. The people of Britain have never listened more attentively.  The foreshadowing of a Revolution is present.

Of course government intervention ensues and after a brief altercation Evey is taken “hostage” by V in an attempt to keep her safe from authorities who seem to think she is somehow involved in his plot.  Forced to remain in V’s amazing underground lair for an entire year, Evey passes her time admiring the millions in contraband art, music, and all things “culture” present in the home.  She also enjoys conversing with the masked man and attempting to get inside the head of the gentle terrorist; the freedom fighter with a cause, and a dark past.

While local Inspector Eric Finch (Stephen Rea) and his partner attempt to crack the case, Head Chancellor Sutler cracks down hard on local authorities: they will terminate the terrorist promptly.  Still, somehow V manages to set in motion his plan, which includes the exposure of en evil government plot responsible for killing thousands of innocent British citizens in the name of “Medicine” and “War,”  and of course, the individual, and reverent deaths of all those responsible in helping set about those murders. 

However, when V’s plot requires the assistance of a still innocent Evey, she panics and flees, leaving him once again to create his Revolution alone.  Seeking shelter in a fellow friend’s home, Evey quickly learns that Gordeon Deitrich (Stephen Fry) is just as “exiled” and “radical” as V; that he too believes in the revolution, though he is not privy to say so.  While Evey learns of her friend’s past, and we learn of Evey’s- which includes the kidnapping of her parents by government authorities for their radical political beliefs: think South America and the Los Desaparecidos- once again officials will invade house and home and Evey’s dear friend will meet his death.

Evey will wake up in a torture cell and be subjected to interrogative tactics in an attempt to coerce information pertaining to the identity and location of her “friend,” V.  Through iron will and tolerance, and an inspiring letter from a fellow victim, Evey endures.  But alas, it seems at the final moment, her moment of should-be death, reveals that all has been an illusion: a perverse, albeit necessary form of training and preparation. 

Now a revolutionary herself, Evey fights for freedom while fighting the anger within.  She once again flees V’s home and awaits the countdown ‘til November 5th, when she promises she will return and provide V with one last meeting, before he sets his plot in motion.  As the countdown begins there still remain two major enemies at bay, and the ambiguous motives of V await judgment by the people:  will they, or won’t they join him?  More importantly, where does the innocent beauty stand, and what of her ideas?

“V for Vendetta” is an amazingly revolutionary film.  Though it is in the realm of psychological thriller, film noir, and black satire, still, the futuristic film is not a far fetched idea.  In truth all that happens in the film, save for the radical fighting sequences and special effects, really could happen.  The ideologies: psychological, political, personal, and public could potentially manifest themselves in the world, in any country desperately searching for a way to control the chaos- a chaos which seems to be spreading, in forms of terror and terrorism worldwide, even at present.  In an attempt to curb extremism, via extremism (yes, this film is plenty paradoxical), this film is a warning against extreme measures of control.  It is a reminder that certain civil liberties are due rights and not political privileges. 

Though this film tends to border on the Hollywood fantastic- and moments are cheesy- still, it is amazingly true, and deep; though you have to want to find the depth to see it.  Taken at face value the film is another futuristic thriller.  Observed more deeply however, the radical satire deals with real issues and their terrifying tangibility.  The film brings home the potential of “what could be,” and what, during WWII, almost was.

I admit this film has a bit of the “cult,” a tinge of the rogue, and a smear of the specialized; it will not be for everyone, particularly those who are uncomfortable with acknowledging radical political issues, and revolutionary ideologiesStill, it should be everyone, and perhaps that is the best point the film makes. 

The film, however far-reached, offers a little something for everyone, that something is the prospect of autonomy:  people should control their governments, the governments should not control their people.  An idea, that in some places today, would have you killed. 

This film is a testament to the ancient idea of the power of words, and revolutionary possibility of ideas- concepts that have long been substituted with postmodern “brain in a vat” icons and unrealistic renditions of fantasylands.  With “V” one sees, the future is near, and old weapons: words, ideas, must be called upon so that the truth can finally be revealed. Truth is made manifest through ideas, words, not napalm and nukes.

“V for Vendetta” was nominated for the 2006 Golden Trailer award for Best Action film. 

Main Characters:

Hugo Weaving plays V, the masked man with a vendetta.

Natalie Portman plays Evey Hammond, the innocent beauty and unlikely revolutionary.

John Hurt plays Chancellor Adam Sutler, the new-age Hitler.

Stephen Fry plays Gordon Deitrich, the unkown “Other.”

Stephen Rea plays Inspector Finch, the pivot in V’s plot.

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Memorable Quotes:

NARRATOR: “Remember, remember the 5th of November…”

NARRATOR:  “But what of the man?”

PROTHERO: “No one escapes judgment.”

NARRATOR: “We are told to remember the idea not the man, because man can fail.”

NARRATOR: “I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of ideas.  I’ve seen people kill in the name of them..”

EVEY: “Are you like a crazy person?”

V: “I am quite sure they will say so…”

V: “…I like God, do not play with dice, and do not believe in coincidences.”

V: “I merely played my part.”

SUTLER: “To fail is to invite doubt into everything we believe, everything that we have fought for.  Doubt will plunge this country back into chaos…”

V: “Words will always retain their power.  Words are for the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the annunciation of the Truth. And the Truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?  Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression.  And whereas once you had the freedom to object, think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and suppeaning your submission.  How did this happen?  Who’s to blame?  Well certainly there are those whoa re more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable.  But again, truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only to look in a mirror.”

V: “Fairness, Justice, and Freedom are more than words: they are perspectives.”

FINCH: “One thing is true of all governments: the most reliable records are tax records.”

V: “By the power of truth, I while living, have conquered the world.”

GORDON:  “Viva la revolution!”

GORDON: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

V:  “This may be the most important moment of your life… commit to it.”