I must admit I have a soft corner for movies which try and leverage the power of mass-media - be it propoganda, stage-management, symbolism, whatever. I have been recommended that there is a 70s film called Network which does a brilliant job of that. I have not seen arguably the greatest movie of all times, Citizen Kane, but that too is actually about the rise and the fall of a media baron. In the recent past too, movies like Gladiator, Enemy at the Gates, Batman Returns, Minority Report, The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Rang de Basanti have been so good because they have a story on the same lines - using media and symbols - to tell.
In such a scenario, V for Vendetta should have been something right up my alley. It is based on a graphic novel, in an era when Britain has become totalitarian. To my mind, the plot is a toned-down version of 1984 ( I trying reading the classic when I was pretty young, but did not manage to make much progress). However, a good friend of mine told me that this novel (Vendetta) was produced during the times of Margaret Thatcher by a duo called Alan Moore & some Lloyd, and the duo hated the movie made in 2005 so much that they disowned the film. As I have not read their novel, I would not debate their feelings, but when you see the film, the parallels with George Bush are so obvious that it becomes rather funny after a while.
The screenplay of the movie have been written by the Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame, and has been directed by a protege of theirs, James McTeigue. Now this fact could have worked both ways for the movie. The first half of the film is absolutely gripping, and I like the edge-of-the-seat treatment given to a normal tale. The movie is also interesting because it encourages you to go and find out more about Guy Fawkes. For any 'idea' in a film, the ultimate parameter of success would be to ensure you want to know more than what was told.
Britain is under the iron-grip of a Chancellor whom the Outlook magazine calls as a mix of Lenin and Hitler, and in the current times, is possibly a caricature of George Bush. He has worked his way up through democratic means (just like Hitler), and like Bush & Lenin, started believing in his God-appointed ideology like a fantic. As in Saddam's rule, anyone who rubbed the authorities the wrong way simply disappeared, and biological experiments were being carried out on the nation's citizens in secret. In such a scenario, V (Hugo Weaving, though we rarely get to see him, just hear his impressive voice) puts on a mask like Guy Fawkes, and is very much of a super-man. He openly challenges the Govt, starts to kill some key & corrupt functionaries, and threatens to blow up the Parliament on Guy Fawkes day, all to sell across his idea of freedom and anti-tyranny, and mobilise public opinion towards the same.
The story unfolds through the eyes of Natalie Portman, with whom V and I fell in love in the first scene. She looks gorgeous, acts well (though the radiance of her beauty over-shadows that), and when her hair is shaved off in the second half, looks even more vulnerable. Natalie plays Evie, and together we discover that V's vengeance for vendetta is actually a lot more personal than is obvious. However, like all good tales, his personal mission is actually influenced by the sad story of another victim, and this lends some sort of credence to his mission to awaken the society.
The other notable performance comes from Stephen Rea, who plays Inspector Finch, hot on the trails of the terrorist V. Am forgetting the name of the actor, but the guy who plays the Chancellor also does a rather competent job.
The most disappointing aspect of the film is the climax - it is thoroughly predictable, and somehow a bit too cliched. Besides, the execution of the climax is the only time when the technique overshadows the actual plot. Otherwise, if anyone has to figure out how to marry technique with good story-telling, the first 115 minutes of the movie is an ideal education towards the same. However, in spite of a slight flaw towards the end, V for Vendetta is a good effort, and worth a watch by all cinema lovers.