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Average: 13.1%
Pretty Bad: 3.57%
Total Crap: 11.11%

16 reviews, 156 user ratings

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V for Vendetta
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Even Alan Moore himself might approve of this stunner."
5 stars

There are still people out there who are perfectly content to dismiss a film out of hand as juvenile junk the moment that they learn that it is based on a comic book or graphic novel; to their eyes, such things are a debasement and perversion to the good name of literature (although they are willing to let things like “The Da Vinci Code” or the oeuvre of John Grisham slide). Although there is plenty of idiotic trash out there like “Fantastic Four” to make such a case, the truth is that such films have gradually gotten smarter and more thoughtful recently. Just in 2005, three of the best films of the year, “A History of Violence,” “Sin City” and “Batman Begins” had their roots in graphic novels and you could hardly hope for three more intelligent or well-made examples of contemporary cinema. (If any of them had been named Best Picture at the Oscars a couple of weeks ago, I for one would have been immensely cheered and satisfied.) Like those films, the new action epic “V for Vendetta” is also based on an acclaimed graphic novel and it also transcends its genre trappings to provide a visually astonishing and intellectually stimulating work that is as intelligent as it is entertaining. Those who would dismiss it because of its ancestry should probably reconsider because if they don’t, they will be missing one of the more provocative works of popular entertainment to emerge from a major studio in a long time.

Based on the mini-series created by famed comics author Alan Moore (whose works have previously inspired the flawed-but-interesting “From Hell” and the disastrous “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), “V for Vendetta” posits a world of the not-too-distant future that comes across as frighteningly plausible. In it, America has been laid low by disease and civil war and London is now the unquestioned superpower of the world. Thanks to unrest caused by a mysterious disease that killed thousands, a fascist-leaning government, led by Adam Sutler (John Hurt) was swept into power on a platform that exploited the fears of the populace in such a way that they voluntarily gave up most of the freedoms that you and I take for granted. Now, undesirables (homosexuals, dissidents and various “others”) are dealt with harshly, the government officials have effectively isolated themselves from those they are supposed to be serving and any difficulties are effectively spun and smoothed over by the government-run media (mostly a television network not a million miles removed from the Fox News Channel).

As the film opens, a young news intern named Evey (Natalie Portman) is caught out on the streets after curfew and accosted by a group of depraved police who suggest nothing as much as the Droogs from “A Clockwork Orange” with badges. Before anything can happen, the assault is interrupted by a mysterious man (Hugo Weaving), outfitted in a cape and a Guy Fawkes mask (Fawkes was the 17th century rebel whose failed attempt to avenge the persecution of Catholics by King James I by blowing up Parliament is still commemorated today with bonfires and fireworks), who makes short work of the attackers with some fancy knife play and spirits Evey away to the rooftops as he conducts the bombing of the Old Bailey to the tune of the “1812 Overture.” While the government tries to put a positive spin on the incident–they claim it was a “scheduled evening demolition,” the police, led by the sleazy and corrupt Creedy (Tim Pigott-Smith) and the doggedly earnest Finch (Stephen Rea) struggle to find any leads leading them to the man known only as V.

A little while later, V invades the TV studio where Evey works and broadcasts his intent to blow up Parliament in one year’s time unless the populace begin to stand up to the corruption around them. At one point, V is cornered by a cop and Evey comes to his aid, a kindness which he repays by bringing her to stay in an underground lair that serves as a mournful memorial to the world that once was that is chock-full of forbidden films (including “The Count of Monte Cristo), literature and even a well-stocked jukebox. While biding his time, V goes around picking off various high government officials who, Finch discovers, worked together on a horrifying secret program that may hold the key to V’s shrouded past. After being lured into aiding in one such attach, Evey leaves V and takes shelter with Deitrich (Stephen Fry), a popular TV entertainer who has some secret and rebellious notions of his own. When he recklessly spoofs Sutler on the air, his flat is invaded and he is killed and Evey is imprisoned, shaved bald and tortured by people demanding to know the identity of V. She refuses to aid them and by doing so, she winds up freeing herself–mind, body and soul–and this once-insignificant person winds up being one of the key players in the growing revolt of the population.

Because it has been well-reported in the media that Alan Moore has publicly disassociated himself from the film, some may surmise that “V for Vendetta” is a simple-minded bastardization of his provocative original story. In truth, Moore’s scorn stems more from a general distrust of Hollywood (which you can hardly blame him for after “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”) and a specific beef with producer Joel Silver (who claimed in a press conference early in production that Moore had endorsed the film when he had done no such thing) and if he ever does see his way to watching the film, I suspect that he will discover that while some of the details may have changed (Moore wrote his tale in the mid-1980's as an indictment of the policies of Margaret Thatcher and much of the political material has been updated to reflect current concerns), both the basic story and his underlying ideas–chiefly his notions that it is the ordinary citizens who wield true power, and not those in the government who try to convince them otherwise, and that, as V puts it, “Ideas are bulletproof”–remain front and center.

In fact, the strongest sequences in the film–including Evey’s capture and torture, the haunting meeting between V and one of his former tormentors (Sinead Cusack) and a moving flashback to the sad story of a young actress (Natasha Wightman) who is forced to pay the ultimate price for being her own person–come almost directly from Moore’s original work. As the film progresses, some of the more cynical fans of the book may begin to suspect that this film will eventually cop out and turn away from its bleakly inevitable conclusion to something more conventionally uplifting and audience-pleasing. I’ll admit to being one of those people and I was surprised and pleased to discover that it doesn’t pull any punches and climaxes with perhaps the most startling image in a big-budget studio film since the buildings came tumbling down at the end of “Fight Club.”

In adapting Moore’s sprawling narrative into a workable screenplay, the Wachowski Brothers have come up with a balance of thoughtful philosophy and all-out action that feels more natural and organic than it did in their “Matrix” films (in which the more intelligent discourse tended to get lost amidst the often-stunning carnage). There are some hiccups here and there–the details of Evey’s separation from and reunion with V are somewhat sketchy and I would like someone to explain how V was able to order and send 100,000 Guy Fawkes masks to the people of London without being noticed–but this is still a smart adaptation. The most important addition has been to beef up the character and backstory of Evey, a smart move that makes her gradual transformation more convincing in the end. First-time director James McTeigue (who was the first assistant director on the “Matrix” films and “Attack of the Clones” and who is not a pseudonym for the Wachowskis, as some have alleged) is also able to find a compelling balance between the more introspective character-driven moments and the thunderously exciting action scenes.

The quality of performance is an aspect of big-budget action filmmaking that is usually ignored most of the time–it is generally assumed that the performers are going to be spending more time dodging explosions and reacting to unknown special effects to do much of anything else–so it comes as a blessed relief to discover that the performances here are uniformly strong and sure. For Portman, a superlative actress (and not a half-bad rapper) who tends to wilt somewhat when in the throes of a lackluster script (as a close look at the “Star Wars” movies will prove beyond a doubt), her turn as Evey is an inspired bit of work that convincingly demonstrates the gradual radicalization of a young woman whose eyes have finally opened to the world around her. As V, Hugo Weaving overcomes the seemingly insurmountable problem of spending his every on-screen moment hidden behind an immobile Guy Fawkes mask (for all intents and purposes, his role is essentially a voice-over job) and transforms a collection of cool action moves and slogans into a genuinely flesh-and-blood creation. Among the supporting performances, John Hurt is appropriately malevolent as the sinister Cutler, whose every appearance raises the specter of Big Brother (perhaps an in-joke reference to Hurt’s work in the film version of the thematically similar “1984") and Sinead Cusack makes the most of her one big scene in which she literally confronts the sins of her past and is relieved to shed that burden for good. Best of all is Stephen Rea as perhaps the one decent and just lawman in a world gone wrong–he is very good as a man who does what he believes to be right until he can no longer convince himself that this is the case.

Because it features at its center a hero who unapologetically embarks on a wave of violent revolt against the government in order to inspire revolt, there will no doubt be plenty of people ready to condemn “V for Vendetta” as an effort from depraved liberals in Hollywood to glamorize and promote the ideals of terrorism. This is, of course, laughable and presumes that all viewers–except for the critics, of course–are simple-minded sheep who will slavishly imitate any behavior that they see on the screen. What it may hopefully do, if enough people see it and respond to it, is remind the entertainment industry that there used to be a time when popular entertainment was allowed to comment on what was going on in the world instead of simply ignoring it altogether. (As proof of this, the end credits are accompanied by the Rolling Stones tune “Street Fighting Man,” a once-incendiary anthem that shakes off nearly 40 years of classic-rock dust to resonate with a renewed sense of power.) If that happens, and provocations like “V for Vendetta” become the rule rather than the exception, I suspect that even the legendarily cranky Alan Moore might find some good in such a development.

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originally posted: 03/17/06 16:12:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2013 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell not bad at all 4 stars
3/11/15 Nik The story was built around its message, not vice versa 3 stars
7/05/11 Dr.Lao Entertaining but undistinguished entry into the done-to-death "future dictatorship" genre 3 stars
5/29/11 Shaun A Powerful vision that left me breathless and thoughtful. 5 stars
5/28/11 Toni I love this movie - definately one for our times 5 stars
3/27/11 Lenny Zane Ordinarily Natalie Portman could fascinate me for hours picking her nose, but THIS...Ugh! 1 stars
9/24/10 art V reminded me of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA! 3 stars
3/03/10 KGBproduced Have I just seen a film or a Soviet reel leveling all ills on religion and the bourgoisie? 1 stars
1/30/10 art V FOR VERY BAD!,is more like it! 1 stars
11/23/09 Jeff Wilder Entertaining and frightening futuristic thriller. 5 stars
6/03/09 Tom Good Day. Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. Help m 3 stars
4/03/09 Gorgon Zola An unbelievably clunky snoozer. Angst driven, poorly scripted and painful acting by Portman 1 stars
2/13/09 Peter North I'd like to drop my dynamite in Evey's V....... 5 stars
8/19/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
8/03/08 Samantha Pruitt deep and awesome movie with a great story and acting! 4 stars
6/20/08 thismoviesucks most pretentious movie I've seen, terrible waste of time 1 stars
5/26/08 zenny zestfully sticking it to the man 4 stars
3/25/08 emissario666 Good, but not as deep as the original 3 stars
2/29/08 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne How low hath Queen Amidala sunk -- unto sucking her own turds in this muck! 1 stars
12/08/07 yýlmaz perfect 5 stars
11/10/07 g webster not what I expected,extremely well done all around! 5 stars
11/09/07 il-Palazzo V is such a badass. 5 stars
7/10/07 Jubei Greatly written,one man's revenge turns a country against its dictators.Makes politics cool 5 stars
7/06/07 Greg Terrible movie 1 stars
7/04/07 Rocko Livingston Very very very nicely done! 5 stars
6/30/07 Mark Leonard Very surprised! Very well acted, superb music, gripped me all the the way through. 4 stars
6/19/07 rishy one of the greatest movies ever made. thought-provoking 5 stars
5/06/07 WCC Complete liberal propaganda. pot calling kettle black. 1 stars
4/13/07 Nessus Impressive, an action movie with a message 5 stars
2/26/07 Donny M People are stupid. Best story drivin movie in the last 5 years. 5 stars
2/22/07 Bitchflaps Peurile garbage, a 15 year old Maoist's wet dream I expected it to be bad but Jesus Christ. 1 stars
2/08/07 Andre urbani S for shit - too preachy and assumes the audience are stupid 1 stars
2/07/07 The chode Badass, the dialouge was so good its rediculous. 5 stars
1/11/07 Jake This movie is the complete and utter shit. 5 stars
1/09/07 Gerard Revengeful ! 5 stars
1/07/07 Quicksilver Interesting thoughts on totalitarianism married to long sequences of boredom 4 stars
1/02/07 Todd Fucking cool as hell, not what I was expecting 5 stars
12/12/06 Angela Saunders One of the most thought provoking films of the year. Surprisingly great!!! 5 stars
12/06/06 mel watkins a movie for our times 5 stars
11/19/06 lou a.m.a.z.i.n.g. one of the best films ever. 5 stars
10/29/06 R.W.Welch Paranoid and propagandistic but some good perfs. C+ 3 stars
10/20/06 MP Bartley Interesting ideas, awful dialogue, clumsy execution. 3 stars
10/15/06 Kristina Finally a film that is set out of america and with love and blood at the same time 5 stars
10/06/06 Lance Bush combined with Orwell....Great, timely lessons throughout this deep film of conscience 5 stars
10/02/06 Louise Couldn't get a handle on it at all - gave up after an hour ... 2 stars
10/02/06 Dr. Fishopolis ...and Anastasia Beaverhausen can go eat a dick. 4 stars
9/21/06 daveyt what a load of old tosh... 1 stars
9/17/06 Open/Eyes Fear & Control or Fear of Control? Fair warning... 4 stars
9/14/06 Patrick Petty I found this film great, very thought provoking, reminds me of the times we live in. 5 stars
9/07/06 Indrid Cold Obviously above average, but too much politics and not nearly enough excitement. 4 stars
9/03/06 JeromeBosch Superb Orwellian tale with great acting and FX. 5 stars
8/26/06 james burke Best of 2006 thus far, visually well rendered, superb cast, great material, and relevant 5 stars
8/24/06 AnnieG Very good adaption of the graphic novel. 4 stars
8/24/06 Freedom Loved the movie. "WOW" Could that be our Gov.? This movie could be a BIG eye opener. 5 stars
8/21/06 Gene Awesome 5 stars
8/19/06 ALDO A few good scene but mostly way 2 boring.. TOO much Blah blah blah 2 stars
8/19/06 Mary Beth great on Imax 5 stars
8/17/06 matt a few good parts but mostly just dull 3 stars
8/14/06 Ryan_A Exceeded my expectations. Weaving's vocal delivery is worth 1 star by itself. 4 stars
8/09/06 Lisa Loved it!! Captivated all the way through. Kook LIberal Paranoid & Proud of it!! 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist I can't believe my well tasted uncle loved it, Me? BORING, YAWNFEST,SNORESVILLE!!!! 2 stars
8/09/06 Charles Stroud V for Vendetta is move than a movie, its a conception that fans the flames of liberty. 5 stars
8/09/06 Anastasia Beaverhausen Finally, kook liberal paranoids get their film 1 stars
8/08/06 Viper Did Michael Moore write this preposterous rubbish 2 stars
8/07/06 TreeTiger Good movie - go rent it..! 5 stars
8/06/06 davood dreadful,rubbish,awfull,waste of time 1 stars
8/06/06 Charles Strout For all who love freedom, and risk their lives for it. This movie will embrace you're soul 5 stars
8/04/06 philby john Impressive 5 stars
7/30/06 flloyd pretentious, boring, thinly drawn characters that you dont care about in the slightest 1 stars
7/29/06 Robert Maleman Very bad acting and story, boring too. 1 stars
7/16/06 Reklc It appeals to me so I'm an idiot (and proud to be one)! 5 stars
7/13/06 Aaron Dumb, really dumb bad film 1 stars
7/10/06 Lee Fantastic actors. Great dialogue. Brilliant film. Amazing. 5 stars
7/07/06 william zoran Would appeal to an idiot. 1 stars
7/03/06 Another fan disappointed by NP The once superb Natalie Portman would be more appealing engaging in autocoprophagy. 1 stars
6/26/06 Chris Fawkes What a dog of a film. Bored me crapless. V looks like Joan Rivers and who would want to loo 1 stars
6/23/06 Ariadne Christina Renee Gladstone Parts that make sense are good, just not enough of 'em. Pretty bad.... no wait...... 1 stars
6/11/06 Jim F. Great, thought-provoking, scary. 5 stars
6/02/06 Hellen It is a great movie, very political 5 stars
5/18/06 Alfred Guy Tried to be different and that's a good thing. 4 stars
5/16/06 TyrantisTerror More like V for OMFG AWESOME! Yeah, I know it doesn't make sense. Shut up. 5 stars
5/15/06 Jonny K Excellent Film on every level 5 stars
5/11/06 zaw Great movie, I came from a Socialistic country. Top of my list too! 5 stars
5/11/06 Will Nitschke Based on a comic book but wants its ideas taken seriously, and some can be. 4 stars
5/10/06 Cory Randolph Action-wise, it was boring, though it had interesting topics discussed... 3 stars
5/09/06 aadil fantastic movie... a must see 4 stars
5/09/06 Tranquil Better than I expected, engrossing story and plot development. 4 stars
5/06/06 Freeze Real cliche, nothing new, bored till the end. 2 stars
5/03/06 Alice I dont get it, to me it was boring and VERY average ! 2 stars
5/03/06 liz amato awesome movie, best i have seen 5 stars
5/01/06 lauram Fantastic!!! Made me want to go out and overthrow our liberal old farts government! 5 stars
4/26/06 The Grinch Unfuckwithable! Far exceeded my expectations. GO SEE THIS MOVIE! 5 stars
4/26/06 Clayton Smith this movie is at the top of my list 5 stars
4/23/06 Mase Long in the tooth, not entirely engaging. But has a bold vision. 3 stars
4/22/06 Pat Frederick Totally enjoyed the movie! It was really engrossing! 5 stars
4/21/06 Anthony G Best movie of the year. 5 stars
4/21/06 Hilary 5-star!! Absolutely awesome!! 5 stars
4/21/06 T I thought it was a great movie. I reflected on our own US gov't. 5 stars
4/20/06 malcolm too long. heavy-handed. 3 stars
4/19/06 Koitus Interesting movie, "for OUR time" of "W.' Was expecting more action, though. 4 stars
4/16/06 Furuta The best film i saw this year 5 stars
4/10/06 M Meaningful,Well Written and Couageous. 4 stars
4/10/06 Ty awesome!! awesome!! 5 stars
4/10/06 the untrained eye This is a movie, not a comic book. Repeat. Then enjoy. 4 stars
4/07/06 T loved the flow of words and deep thought. seen it twice already and will purchase it later 5 stars
4/06/06 Troy M. Grzych I went in thinking "Matrix," but got Shakespeare instead!! 5 stars
4/02/06 ajay saw it in the IMAX today, pretty good stuff. 4 stars
3/31/06 kaz on the edge of my seat 5 stars
3/30/06 M. Dido It's quite good, but I've yet to see a film adaptation that does justice to Alan Moore. 3 stars
3/29/06 Titus A few rough edits, needs a bit more spit-and-polish, but came off real well overall. 4 stars
3/29/06 John extremly entertaining, well made and applicable - good stuff 5 stars
3/29/06 Lord Jiggy V 4 very tedious, very obvious, and verbose 2 stars
3/28/06 sweetgrrl1972 It's been a long time since I've seen a movie that I've enjoyed this much. 5 stars
3/28/06 Danny Johanson This movie was very entertaining and did deliver everything i thought it would. 5 stars
3/28/06 Riki Slow in the beginning, but picks up 4 stars
3/28/06 herkos akhaion Complex story is not clearly delivered 3 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer V for Victory! This movie entertains in spades! 5 stars
3/27/06 bullit16 Pretty impressive 4 stars
3/26/06 Alex A BORING waste of time. 1 stars
3/25/06 Eevil Wolfie Gave me chills. Needs more action though. 4 stars
3/25/06 Phil beyond my expectations, wonderfully acted, great acting, little different, screw the world 5 stars
3/24/06 pw chong zzzz expected more 2 stars
3/23/06 Anthony G Very Very good. 5 stars
3/23/06 AE Smart thought-provoking cautionary fable 4 stars
3/22/06 Bullwinkle Worth the $5 matinee, def. needed more action though 4 stars
3/22/06 Ole Man Bourbon The world through the eyes of a paranoid schizophrenic? Had its moments though. 3 stars
3/22/06 Persona Surprisingly powerful and absorbing. A great film, period. 5 stars
3/21/06 Kankasaur "V" celebrates victory over tyranny like Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture or V-E Day. Good stuff 5 stars
3/21/06 maxomai Damn impressive. 5 stars
3/20/06 Jannie entertaining, truth, Nartalie, ah..masked man, action, fun 5 stars
3/20/06 Mark A nice surpise--good anti-state message 5 stars
3/20/06 gui awesome 5 stars
3/20/06 Rocky Intelligent flick, fiercely anti-authoritarian...really makes you think 4 stars
3/20/06 PeterV2 The parrallels may be updated, but they are still intriguing. 5 stars
3/20/06 Doug Good 4 stars
3/20/06 Matt Very enjoyable, even better on the IMAX. 4 stars
3/20/06 your worst goddamn nightmare This flick was better than the original comic book!!! Not shittin' you.... 5 stars
3/19/06 Agent Sands More creative and inventive and fresh than it thinks it is. 4 stars
3/19/06 mary oh boy i liked much fun , truth, wonderful acting, great message, prophetic, soon 5 stars
3/19/06 great portman was excellent but the film was just average, boring ending 2 stars
3/19/06 Jesse Excellent thinking movie with some nice plot twists. 5 stars
3/19/06 Vicious Uncomprimising, intelligent, visually adept and all around excellent. 5 stars
3/19/06 Chomp Outstanding movie. 5 stars
3/19/06 Heather Great movie 5 stars
3/19/06 Lazlo Simply excellent! Alan Moore FINALLY done justice on the big screen! 5 stars
3/18/06 BrianWilly Very good stuff. 5 stars
3/18/06 um yeah Can I see N.Portmans boobies please!! 5 stars
3/18/06 KingNeutron Definitely worth seeing. 4 stars
3/18/06 julia wonderfully entertaining and fun 5 stars
3/18/06 drone brilliant adaptation 5 stars
3/17/06 jcjs wowsa, not what i least as wow as 'Fight Club', band, boom yes indeedie, fine 5 stars
3/17/06 djacosta Mind blowing! 5 stars
3/17/06 brian damn awesome 5 stars
3/15/06 archie Masterpiece! 5 stars
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  17-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 01-Aug-2006



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