Directed by James McTiegue. USA. 2005.

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The much delayed controversial Wachowski brothers follow-up to the Matrix trilogy, is a comic-book adaptation of the DC Comic originally written by Alan Moore (whose credit is removed due to his unliking for previous film adapatations) and follows the exploits of a Fawkesian masked terrorist named V (Hugo Weaving) who terrorises a futuristic London imprisoned by a crippling government called the Fingermen.  

The film's initial release was delayed due to the London tube bombings of July 7th 2005 and it is understandable as to why this is because the set-pieces in using bombs on the underground is too close to the bone, however, while it may seem like they set out to glorify terrorism, the film does attempt to point the finger at the oppressive society in which these terrorists may live in. 

We first encounter V on a dark night when he saves Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) from an attempted sexual assault.  Upon asking who he is, V gives an answer not to dissimilar to the speech given by the architect at the end of the Matrix Reloaded, just so there is no doubt that the Wachowski's wrote this.  But while it is full of babble and vocabulary the film does descend into first-rate blockbuster action, giving us stereotypical villains and humane heroes such as Gordon (Stephen Fry), the entertaining homosexual sympathiser and Finch (Stephen Rea) the detective who just has a feeling.  But through it all is the belief that maybe the film-maker do not go to the full length to get there point across, instead leaving it to actions to speak louder than ideas, which might be bullet-proof. 

The film does go down some darkened alleys taking a totally unnecessary lesbian sub-plot (again the Wachowski's) which has no effect on the action and is a clever device to link the film to V's affection of the Count of Monte Cristo.   

As a comic book movie it is one of the few films you will see where the hero/villain (dependent on who you support) is not unmasked but it is a credit to the role that you do not yearn for his identity to be realised and it is a testament to the message of the film that V could be anybody, hence why his identity remains a mystery.  And it is because of this eternal mystery that we should be grateful to Weaving, who delivers an acting class on how a role can be more about how you look, but how you carry yourself in terms of body, voice along with clever lighting and photography; his performance makes you believe that there is something more than a 'terrorist' under the mask, but somebody who can appreciate art, culture and fall in love. 

Unfortunately, a weakness of the film is Portman, who although she can reach dramtic lengths and cry for England, it is the accent she seems to struggle with on occasions and it is a shame that an English actress could not have been found, but because of her small size she exhibits lengths of vulnerability, much like Weaving does in a stoop of his shoulders, and the film does endeavour to show the link between the two from the film's opening make-up scenes to how they both find each other at the jukebox and so on.  While her role may be thankless she does give Weaving some chemistry in their scenes together although the kiss will be lost on some people, while necessarily theatrical it is cinematically negative and maybe the vigilant should not always have what he wants. 

V For Vendetta, should not be viewed as vulgar, it is vigorous entertainment and gives voice that Hollywood can have a say on the larger political context, without diminishing their own returns. 

* This film was viewed at the bfi Imax Cinema in Waterloo, London and will be doing a full run at the venue within the next few weeks.  During the evening we were given a sneak preview of two further films which will be transferred from the big screen to the bigger screen this summer, they are Poseidon (Wolfgang Petersen, 2006) and Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006).  While those films promise the spectacle and grandeur which would not go amiss on an IMAX screen, I did find at times that V for Vendetta was an odd choice for the bigger screen as a lot of the time you had one-shot close ups of the main players and apart from the two explosive set-pieces none of the spectacle that would fill up the big screen as say The Polar Express and Batman Begins - two previous IMAX transfers - did.  But nevertheless, the IMAX experience is one to savour and is a real gift to have in the capital and should be one taken up by all, if you can afford the big fee befitting a bigger experience.

Jamie Garwood
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