01/05/2006. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
Let's face it ... V could also stand for vivaciously inviting, Frank discovers. First-time director James McTeigue oversees this wondrous, eye-opening piece of pumped-up popcorn entertainment. In the stylish and roguish comic book thriller V for Vendetta, robust imagery and wildly drawn English-laden anarchy go hand-in-hand in this radical escapist spectacle.
V for Vendetta (2006) Warner Brothers
The potential to capture the sensationalistic allure of McTeigue's frenetic fantasy is set against a posturing British police state. Explosively imaginative and colourfully conveyed, this velocity-driven vehicle dabbles in the right combination of cynicism and surrealism.
Shrewdly, McTeigue weaves his crafty and boastful sentiments about the universal scepticism of terrorism, anti-establishment rhetoric and war-torn mistrust into a frivolous fusion of fascist forethought.
If the murky yet energetic apocalyptic pronouncement of "Vendetta's" aura tastes of a feisty and familiar flavour, the film's screenwriting and producing tandem-the Wachowski Brothers-are the instrumental forces behind this sizzling, observational Big Brother-oriented fable. Naturally, the cinematic sibs are known for their innovative Matrix trilogy.
The instinctive and creative surge that permeates in "Vendetta" doesn't simply belong to just McTeigue's intriguing direction or the Wachowski Brothers' vibrant storytelling.
Alan Moore and cohort David Lloyd's 1989 graphic novel from DC Comics triggered the true inspiration for "V for Vendetta". Supposedly, Moore's visionary blueprint pertaining to the conceived concept of societal restriction and resentment was "an artistic slap-in-the-face" reference to the Margaret Thatcher administration during the mid-eighties. In any event, the George Orwellian "1984" utopia of the dark and brooding "V for Vendetta" transcends handsomely in what amounts to be a cautionary post 9/11 hangover.
"Vendetta's" mysterious protagonist V a.k.a. William Rookwood (played by "The Matrix's" Hugo Weaving) is a Cape-wearing Wonder that strolls the rollicking streets with the most unique look. Sporting an impish smiley white metal mask and a black-brimmed hat covering his brownish red stringy follicles, V has the customary knack for brandishing sharp daggers. Code V is a complex vigilante whose disdain for the oppressive government and its historical shady tactics against him is the motivation that drives his anti-authority tendencies.
Soon, V will come to the aid of pretty balding pixie Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman). Apparently there are intrusive governmental agents from the operative outfit Fingers that scheme to assault the vulnerable TV station mailroom worker. Evey, overwhelmed by her harried circumstances, will eventually be caught up in the political tug-of-war stagnation that exists between her masked martyr V and the overbearing police-state headed up by menacing Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt).
As V marches to the tune of his own defiant drumbeat, the romantic sparks will soon fly between the beleaguered rescuer and his doe-eyed tag-a-long Evey. Interestingly, we are never exposed to V's facial features as the mask obviously represents the underlying mystique and ambivalent angst of our dubiously disguised anti-hero. Nevertheless, the wounds underneath percolate so convincingly and the disenchanted V cherishes his brand of backlash with hearty vengeance. As an afterthought, our ribald renegade doesn't give it a second moment before he destroys Old Bailey under spirited, sacrilegious scrutiny.
In the meanwhile, the growing terrorism mounted by the governmental top brass is meant to keep their societal underlings under control through constant intimidation. With continual surveillance at every turn, the fearful citizens are stuck in a quagmire of disillusionment. There's no hope to escape the fascist fantasyland that exists and only V's costumed rabble-rouser could muster up the type of ominous mischief and mayhem that concerns Sutler's combative administration. In fact, hot on the treacherous trail of the evasive enemies of the state V and Evey is weary Detective Finch ("The Crying Game's" Stephen Rea).
In short, "V for Vendetta" is a sprawling, politically effective thriller bursting with adventurous spunk. As audacious as the premise purports to be about the futuristic ambition to obliterate Parliament and challenge the antiquated conventions of a repressed English landscape, "Vendetta" thrills in its over-indulgent exuberance. Screenwriters/producers Larry and Andy Wachowski usher in the resourceful "Matrix-induced" techno-trickery that helped revolutionize their previous trademark filmmaking flourishes.
Much like the "Matrix" series, "Vendetta" benefits practically from the adrenaline rush and surrealistic imagery that defines potent and polished sci-fi fare. Cinematographer Adian Biddle definitely scores major points for delivering a fetchingly exquisite actioner that's stimulating, provocative and solidly shot. Armed with its sinister stylistic dreariness, "Vendetta" aptly provides a sardonic setting where the absurd and amazing action-oriented sequences are demonstrated so stunningly.
As enthralling and spryly overactive that "Vendetta" can be in its peppered presentation the film does have its occasional lapses. Some may wince at the ridiculous (and unlikely) usage of V's trusty knives versus the sophisticated weaponry being used by his adversaries. The heavy-handed dialogue feels tedious at times in its belaboured doses. And audiences may have a tough time trying to decipher Weaving's/V's incomprehensible lyrical words from the plastered mask on his hidden face.
Plus, the gimmick of having the mask cover our leading man's face never quite registers with how we might want to share his charismatic expression or caustic demeanour through disbelieving eyes. The story's concept, although riveting and raucous, tends to ramble on a bit while tinkering with the film's focus. Still, these minor considerations aren't enough to totally disrupt the prophetic "Vendetta" from establishing its cunning socio-political vibes.
Weaving's V brings a dynamic and disturbing twist to the Shakespearean-loving misfit whose self-righteousness and contemptible acts of outrage justifies this character's piercing swagger. Portman has the right amount of wide-eyed bewilderment and erratic sensual charm to fill her buzz cut noggin alter ego's shoes. Rae's Finch is involving as the tracker with an icy stone stare. And Hurt's Chancellor Sutler has the unctuous factor that rivals any formidable villainous force in this kind of revved-up genre.
"V for Vendetta" is one of these outlandish films that you either embrace as you applaud its angry concoction of finger-pointing malaise or dismiss automatically as politically charged propaganda. Whatever one's take is about this apocalyptic action-adventure, "V" could certainly describe this metaphysical joyride as a vocal and volatile venture into our never-ending philosophical unrest.
© Frank Ochieng 2006