After having viewed "V for Vendetta," I think Alan Moore may be a prophet.
I've heard from people who want to claim that the movie is a political statement against the current state of affairs in the US, or in the world. I've heard all sorts of nay-sayers, with various opinions, talk about the "political ramifications" of this movie. So before I go on to review it (and discuss a few of my own), allow me to establish a few facts that you might not be aware of.
Courtesy of Wikipedia, I find that "V for Vendetta" was written between 1982 and 1985. Ronald Reagan was in the white house. Terrorism has not yet touched the shores of the United States. The internet was known only to scholars and scientists. DVD's were, as yet, a dream (they weren't invented until the early 1990's). The world was not at all the way we find it today.
Thus the reason I say that Alan Moore may be a prophet. That so many people are drawing analogies to the US of today tells me that Moore foresaw a possibility and wrote about it. Have the events that have happened in this country happened as the events in the film have? No. Am I suggesting that our government has killed people to make us afraid? No. But the situation we find ourselves in, where so much of our lives are uncertainty and fear, finds its echoes loudly in the plight of the heroine and her "leading man." Whether you wish to call him a hero or a villain, or something else entirely, depends on how you personally read and interpret this film.
Moore agrees on several counts. In this interview, he states quite clearly that "the central question is, is this guy right? Or is he mad? What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. I didn't want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think, and consider some of these admittedly extreme little elements, which nevertheless do recur fairly regularly throughout human history."
For me, I find him the epitome of the tragic hero, and I find that role treated with such respect that there was a tear in my eye when the credits began. It surprised me that I was as affected by the film as I was, but I found so much to value, to agree with, in the sentiments espoused by V and by Evey (although perhaps not their methods), that the culmination of the film filled me with hope for my country, not in the events, but in the vigor, pride, and community that the events in the film instill in those who exist within it and on its periphery.
"V for Vendetta" is a film about oppression, about revenge, about justice, and about waking people from their otherwise peaceful slumber so that they might notice what's been taken from them, and subsequently might allow them to stand up and demand its return. It is this sentiment, one that I have been waiting to see in my fellow citizens for several years now, that encouraged my connection with the story. This is not a film for children, however. The message is one that only adults will hear, and even then only those with "ears" for such a message. But for those who didn't hear it, to me, the message said loud and clear: Wake up! Look around! Stand up for yourself, your family, your neighbors, your country! Do not let this happen to you! That Moore saw this as a possibility over 20 years ago astonishes and frightens me, but that someone did see it reassures me now.
The film has three main stars, each delivering a masterful performance. The first is the heroine of the picture. Evey is played to emotional perfection by Natalie Portman, perhaps silencing once and for all those who lay partial blame on her shoulders for the dismal nature of the Star Wars prequels (see, it was Lucas, not the actors). Evey makes a journey that is very strange, painful, and hazardous in every conceivable way, and we are with her every step. Every time it seemed that her character had reached a new point too fast, the filmmakers allowed us to understand the why of it, or the truth behind the facade we were seeing, so that we could understand. In the end, she is the most sympathetic character in the film, although only by a little.
The second is Stephen Rea, who play Chief Inspector Finch, the police officer assigned to find and capture the "terrorist" named V. Rea has starred in many films and televisions shows, and he has been working since the mid 60's. His character also makes a journey, being shaped and changed by events beyond his ken, until he finds a way to uncover the truths of the world, both those he sought and those he did not. It is ultimately his arrival at said truth that allows the awakening to occur. His journey too is vivid and relatable to the audience, although as his character is a bit more worldly, his emotional are played a bit closer to the vest than Ms. Portmans, understandably.
The third and final is V himself, played impeccably by Hugo Weaving. No trace of his native accent bleeds through this performance, and I would have noticed, given that his face is covered by the mask that becomes the symbol for the awakening. Weaving's performance is stirring, unsettling, and ultimately inspiring, and he lends his talents to the message of the film by utilizing body language and tone of voice to make the words stand out sans facial expressions. Seldom have I heard a voice more expressive, more staggering in its ability to convey meaning. We as humans are primarily visual people (scholars say communication is 55% what you see, 38% how you sound, and only 7% what you actually say), so for Weaving to deliver as nuanced and affecting a performance as he did is the mark of someone who has mastered their craft. I've been a fan of Weaving since the first Matrix film, and nothing he has done yet (that I've seen) has disappointed me, and that trend continues.
Two supporting players also helped to make the feel of the film. John Hurt plays, for lack of a better moniker, Big Brother. He is Adam Sutler, the reclusive leader of the alternate-reality British government. He appears mainly to his inner circle, and even then only on a giant television screen, as a large talking head looking down at his "cabinet" for lack of a better term. Likewise, I was delighted to see an old favorite, Stephen Fry, as the star of the most popular program on the government-run propaganda-laden television station, BTN. Fry is yet another member of the cast who first appears as one type of person, only to be revealed as different from his initial representation. His wry wit and genuine good humor help infuse a much-needed sense of normalcy and humanity in the second act of this film.
But as good as the actors are, and as good as Moore's original story is, there are other elements that must be given their due. The Wachowski brothers, Larry and Andy, have redeemed themselves in my eyes after the 2nd and 3rd Matrix films with Vendetta. Their script is tight, effective, revolutionary in a couple senses, and doesn't hesitate to be confusing at times: They explain everything sooner or later. Likewise, James McTeigue, who was a first assistant director on three of the worst films in recent history, proves that he can learn from others mistakes, and that, given excellent source material, he can make a film that not only walks with grace, it dances from one moment to the next. His choice insofar as the level of special effects in the film were, in my mind, just about perfect. The film has enough, but it doesn't suffer under them as so many other films of this day and age do. They are there to help tell the story, not to be the story. One could guess that this was another of the lessons he learned working on all three Matrix films and the 2nd Star Wars prequel. This is only speculation, but I like to believe the best in people.
Beyond these elements, I can't speak to much else. I tried to remain detached from the film enough to look at cinematography, listen to the music, all the other things I usually mention, but I could not. This tells me that, in absentia, they were appropriate given that they didn't bring be out of being submersed in the film. I will endeavor to see the film again, perhaps in the theatre, or definitely when I purchase the DVD. Once I have seen it a few times, I will be able to judge, and if I find anything noteworthy, I will amend this review.
Until them, however, these words will suffice. I am giving "V for Vendetta" a very respectful and appreciated A+. It is, quite simply, the best film I have seen in years. As I mentioned above, not for children, but for adults who want an inspiring, eye-opening, shocking ride in Alan Moore's Britain, I high recommend it.