Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Film Appreciation - Ancient History to Some

Jay Burleson remembers V for Vendetta in this edition of Film Appreciation.

Directed by James McTeigue
Written by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and John Hurt

I saw this film theatrically upon its release on March 17th, 2006, but had no real desire to see it beforehand. A friend of mine, one who I never really saw very often, called and asked if I wanted to go and I decided to join. I'm glad I did, because V for Vendetta instantly became one of my favorite films. Going in, the most I knew about V was that Natalie Portman was in it and that it was connected to the people who had made The Matrix trilogy.

It's true that the Wachowski siblings (Andy and Lana) wrote the script for V for Vendetta, adapted by the graphic novel by Alan Moore (writer) and David Lloyd (illustrator) but the directing duties here were handed off to James McTeigue, assistant director of the Matrix films. He most recently directed the John Cusack film The Raven, and delivered a stunning directorial debut with V for Vendetta. I was amazed at the work he did as a first time director, but it's easy to see his time spent as an assistant on the Matrix films helped him greatly.

V for Vendetta is set in a futuristic Great Britain, when America is in ruins, and a terrorist figure known only as codename V (Hugo Weaving)  is fighting back against the fascist regime that occupies his country. Led by the high chancellor, Adam Sutler (John Hurt), Great Britain's citizens are under constant control. They are patrolled by vans who spy in on their conversations and report the data back to Sutler. Their TV programs are censored and a strict curfew is enforced. V sets out to change things by blowing up a landmark, the old Bailey, but the act is covered up as a planned demolition by Sutler and his people. V then takes over the TV station to get his message out, and asks that anyone who feels like he does, anyone who believes their country has something wrong with it, should join him a year from the date (November 5th) at the Parliament, which V hopes to blow up.

Caught in V's plot is a young woman, Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), who is rescued by V early in the film, and finds herself rescuing him as he is almost captured escaping the TV headquarters. This puts the two of them together for the rest of the film, and the most engaging plot elements revolve around their relationship. On the other side of things, Detective Finch (Stephen Rea) is responsible for catching V, but ends up finding out some scary things about his own government in the process-- that they could be responsible for many epidemics that took the lives of over 80,000 people.

This is a heavy film, with tons going on in every aspect that it portrays. McTeigue does a great job of balancing such a potent story and there is never a dull moment, even though the film touches deeply into the characters and is certainly not just a stylish action film, though it does have some spectacular fight sequences. I much prefer the character beats to the action though, and things really come full circle in that regard, when Evey is captured by the government and is tortured until she will either turn V over or face death. This segment is without a doubt the most powerful.

There is also the story of V and who he really is. His face is hidden behind a Guy Fawkes mask during the entirety of the film, but his backstory is worked into the film rather perfectly. As the film unfolds, we learn a lot of very high up people in the government have a hand in creating V, and now he is seeking his revenge against them. V is a force to be reckoned with, more than a man, yet we see his human side when he cooks Evey breakfast, listens to Cat Power on his jukebox and longs to dance with someone, or watches his favorite film: The Count of Monte Cristo. Touches like these are what make V for Vendetta such a loveable film to me.

The movie is not only well acted, but also very well shot, and is just an all-around solid film. I found the score to be one of the most impressive parts, and am still blown away by the sheer power of the music by Dario Marianelli. Here's a link to one of my favorite tracks: Evey Reborn by Dario Marianelli

V for Vendetta represents an important time in my life. I was making the transition into becoming a filmmaker and was brimming with ideas and excitement. V for Vendetta set my mind on fire with possibilities and helped cultivate my mind for what was to come. I look back on that year (2006) as the year that set everything in motion for the steps I made as a filmmaker in 2007. I can't think of those times without the influence of V. It's ancient history to some, but I'll never forget.

1 comment:

  1. Great post about this movie! I'll never forget this film either.