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15 Years Later: V for Vendetta

29 March 21 words: George White

It's been 15 years since this iconic film, but does it still deserve hold up? Screen Co-Editor George White thinks so...

Director: James McTeigue
Starring: 
Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt
Running time: 
132 minutes

Despite ‘only’ grossing $132m worldwide when it was first released (that’s over 20 times less than Avatar, for comparison), V for Vendetta has become one of the most popular and talked-about blockbusters in the 15 years since. Its modernised take on Orwellian storytelling has influenced many movies in the meantime. And Empire magazine once listed it as one of the best films ever. But does it still hold up over a decade later? In a word, yes. 

Set in a dystopian United Kingdom subject to curfews and strict social rules, V for Vendetta follows young news worker Evey (Natalie Portman) as she becomes embroiled in the plans of a Guy Fawkes maskwearing freedom fighter known simply as ‘V’ (Hugo Weaving) as he attempts to overthrow the country’s tyrannical government.  

This is a film that, despite boasting plenty of action and a tonne of inventive visuals, puts its messages front-and-centre. Based in a society that is grotesquely intolerant of diversity and freedom of expression, the Wachowskis’ script brings up a number of poignant points - admittedly with a certain lack of subtlety - around the importance of protecting individuality. And these only speak louder now, over a decade later, than they did back in 2006. 

With prejudice against race, sexuality and differing cultures refusing to subside - and often feeling like it only grows stronger - around the world, the film’s unrelenting focus on standing up for others and against fascism feels chillingly powerful, and something that more people in society should listen to, and quick. 

This messaging expands into the significance of battling authoritarianism and tyranny. Again, with the Kill the Bill protests recently getting into full swing both in Nottingham and around the country, and with this Government consistently looking to expand its powers whenever the opportunity arises, this focus on political freedom also hits home with some force. 

This one definitely gets a V out of V

The script’s striking ideas are also brilliantly expressed by an impressive cast. Weaving is phenomenal in the titular role, managing to both entertain and provide emotional depth all while sporting a mask and an Edna Mode-esque wig. Much like with his turn as Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, the veteran takes a character that could easily be considered cringeworthy and turns it into an imposing, scene-stealing role. 

Aside from an occasionally iffy English accent, Portman is also remarkable as the everyday person turned unwitting hero, navigating a full range of emotions with notable ease. Credit should be given to Stephen Rea for his performance as Chief Inspector Finch, too. As his character uncovers the truth of the Government he works for, and he begins to reconsider whether he is actually on the right side of the fight, Rea does a fantastic job of conveying each conflicting thought and feeling with subtle facial expressions and cutting line delivery. 

When V for Vendetta decides to bring on the action and move away from its messaging, though, it certainly doesn’t fail to disappoint. Director James McTeigue clearly channels the visual style of his scriptwriters’ work on The Matrix, using inventively-choreographed fight scenes and slow motion sequences to provide some proper entertainment. 

One early scene, in which V saves Evey from a gang of thugs, is particularly impressive, the use of close camerawork and hand-to-hand combat stylistically delivered - and living long in the memory. 

A decade-and-a-half later, V for Vendetta continues to prove an enjoyable yet powerful viewing experience. With themes that often ring disconcertingly close to home, an outstanding cast and some imaginative action, this is blockbuster storytelling at its finest. This one definitely gets a V out of V (that’s five out of five for the non-Romans among us).

Did you know? The domino scene, where V tips over black and red dominoes to form a giant letter V, involved 22,000 dominoes. It took four professional domino assemblers 200 hours to set it up.

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