Movie Review #22 / 250 : ‘V FOR VENDETTA’

Here there be tigers.  *touches earpiece*  Sorry, spoilers.  Wax.

Alan Moore, eh?  Have to say I’d been looking forward to this one for a while.  As a Watchmen devotee (to everything bar deus ex machina squid), I kinda knew what to expect.  A futuristic society that is (of course) dystopian, with violence, desperation and seedy-underhandedness abound.  V doesn’t disappoint, certainly not in that regard.

The plot is pretty straightforward, as things go.  A masked vigilante known only as ‘V’ (Hugo Weaving) hatches an elaborate web of schemes to avenge his past transgressions at the hands of the now-ultra-oppressive British state, ultimately killing off or bribing members of the ruling party while advancing towards his intended payoff of blowing up the houses of parliament, a la Guy Fawkes’ intentions (hence his perpetual Fawkes mask).  A young woman named Evie (Natalie Portman) comes into his life after he rescues her from being gang-raped by state vigilantes (again, you can tell it’s Alan Moore), and due to her childhood trauma at the hands of the state – her parents were taken away for being anti-nuke and generally left-wing – she becomes his sometimes reluctant protege.  The story moves through V’s plotting, the police attempting to foil him, and Evie eventually taking the reins of the entire operation.

This is a story with a calvacade of backstory.  Each character has a lavish and full history, the social context is thick and unavoidable, and as a result the world of the story is both believable and captivating.  This is just Moore’s story, though.  Anyone who’s read Watchmen will tell you how in depth this man can go.  But anyway.  It’s pretty well designed and re-imagined.  The cast, for the most part, while chock full of British character actors, is inspired – Roger Allam as the demented, medicine-addicted political commentator and  Stephen Fry as a secretly anti-establishment broadcaster are particularly good spots.  There’s plenty of action, it’s decently paced, and it doesn’t really plod too much (though the last five, ten minutes are a bit laboured).

The only problem I have with V, as it stands (and I feel a bit rotten about this), is Natalie Portman.  I don’t think she’s brilliantly cast.  She does well with a British accent for a lot of the way, but she just doesn’t seem to fit.  She can do anguished and agonised quite well, but any other emotion on the spectrum seems to have troubled her in this one.  I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone particularly who could give the role a better stab, but I’m left scratching my head wondering how Portman made the final cull.  Some of her moments, particularly near the climax, come across as slightly unsure – I can’t quite put my finger on it.  It’s a shame, though.  Because everything else is pretty much dynamite.

This is a captivating, well-cast (mostly) and expertly re-imagined film that stumbles only slightly in a few of the more melodramatic moments, and in the aforementioned Portman equation.  It’s also an extremely dark and depressing (though somehow jaunty) romp through the recesses of power and corruption – anyone wanting a straight-up vengeance story will be hard pushed to get any glory here.  The spectacle is what you’re in it for, basically.

PROS : Well-paced, mostly well-cast, visually striking, rich and believable plot

CONS : Natalie Portman, a bit clumsy on the old melodramatics

8/10 – I was going to write this final sting with words only beginning with ‘V’, but I can’t be arsed.

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