In this alternate reality film, the UK is ruled by a totalitarian government who perform horrific scientific tests on seditioners, feed lies to the media and rule with an iron fist. V, dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, leads a one-man terrorist plot against the government, entangling Evey, a young woman of treasonous parents, along the way.
V for Vendetta came out in 2005, but I just watched it last night. I'm rather slow when it comes to films. But I was just so blown away by it, and it's dystopian, that I thought it deserved a mention here.
The "totalitarianess" of the society depicted in V for Vendetta seems rather clumsy at first. It borrows heavily from Nineteen Eighty-Four, with its party slogans and ubiquitous television screens, but lacks the darkness of Orwell's novel and the wit and contradiction of Newspeak. It's also rather hammed up, but as this is a graphic novel adaptation, that's not surprising. Though it's not said explicitly, this alternate reality seems to have resulted from Britain losing to the Nazis in World War Two, and many of the events in the film mirror known events that happened during this time, particularly in German concentration camps.
It's the characters and screenplay that really make this film stunning. Hugo Weaving is brilliant as V, an effusive and debonair terrorist. Despite his use of violence, it's a Robin Hood sort of violence: he only goes as far as his enemies. If they shoot to kill, he has no qualms about knifing them in the guts; if the other guy throws a punch, V merely knocks them out. I'm unfamiliar with the graphic novel version, but Natalie Portman's portrayal of Evey was similarly exceptional. She does chaste-brave-and-vulnerable in a very singular way, which is difficult to pull off as we're swimming in chaste-brave-and-vulnerable heroines. The dialogue is sharp, and the pacing it spot on.
There's a huge WTF?? moment about three quarters of the way through that I found difficult to reconcile with at the time. While it's horrifying, in hindsight it works in the way that things can work poetically in films and novels. But if I was Evey I would have landed a few choice punches before moving onto total forgiveness and understanding.
While it took me about half an hour to fully warm to this film, I adored it in the end. It's romantic, heroic and amusing, and very entertaining.