Alan Moore wrote his brilliant graphic novel classic in 1981 and set it in his nightmare vision of Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain. He hates this Hollywood adaptation and his name is very prominently absent from the credits.
The makers of the Matrix have moved the action on into the future. Britain has become a Fascist state and the anarchist terrorist V (Hugo Wearing) has started to blow things up. A victim of the regime’s experimental concentration camp, V now hides his mutilated features behind a grinning Guy Fawkes mask and sets out to get his revenge. He rescues the curfew-breaking Evey (Natalie Portman) from the ungentlemanly attentions of a seedy group of secret policemen and involves her in his explosive exploits. Not only is V after the nasty guys from the concentration camp, he wants to bring down the government led by an iron chancellor (John Hurt) and blow up some of London’s most famous landmarks – cue the brilliant special effects guys from the Matrix.
“Politically confused and badly acted, the view of a totalitarian state depicted here is hopelessly outdated” The Independent.
“A powerful piece of action movie filmmaking with all manner of rebellious badges pinned to its lapel” The Observer.
“This is both visually uninspired…and ultimately unpersuasive in its posturing radical chic” – Time Out.
Rather like that ill-fated comedy film about window cleaners on the Twin Towers, V For Vendetta struggles with a plot that was over-taken by events. In this case, an heroic attempt to blow up Parliament with a tube train packed with explosives. There is no question about the brilliance of the scenes involving spectacular explosions in the heart of London but it is all too close for comfort. The film with its muddled political message, is never quite sure about its position on terrorism. It is 1984 all over again with its warning about authoritarianism but the script is part of Hollywood’s recent flirtation with “woolly liberalism” where the bad guys are so monstrous and the government so evil that we all want to be anarchist terrorists….or do we? When the good guys are as irritating as they are here, I’m not so sure. V (Hugo Weaving) struggles behind a mask that never comes off and has to rely on a smugly unchanging voice, which would be better used recommending Mr. Kipling’s Exceedingly Good Cakes. Natalie Portman might have wished that she could have hidden behind a mask too as her face is frozen blankly through most of the film. Her most memorable moment and Hollywood’s idea of total horror, is when her hair is shaved off live on camera – no special effects here – just an electric razor and that look that only a suddenly bald actress could proffer. The other good guy is Gordon, the only nice guy in the film’s nightmare vision of the BBC. He is played by Stephen Fry in one of his too often repeated flabby nice liberal roles sounding as if he is competing with V for that Mr. Kipling ad. He is also central to the film’s worst scene – an embarrassing Benny Hill-type piece of television satire. John Hurt is the evil dictator with bad teeth and a bad temper. Subtle he ain’t but there’s no question about Mr. Hurt’s ability to rant and rave or his strangely apt resemblance to David Blunkett.
So don’t go if you want to see fine acting or an engaging political drama. If you loved The Matrix and want some more, then still don’t go: V might be an ace with the flying daggers but you have to sit through one heck of a lot of verbiage before you see much action.