Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 118: V for Vendetta

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #169
Year: 2005
Director: James McTeigue
Starring: Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman

Remember, remember the Fifth of November...although it's past midnight and thus technically the Sixth of November, and even though this is a makeup post thus making it the post for the Fourth of November. Anyhow, I think it's become a tradition for most fans of this film to take the opportunity to rewatch it every November 5th, and I did just that earlier today. It's no secret that I'm in love with Natalie Portman. Not quite in the creepy, going to get a restraining order put on me because I try to go to her house way, but I think she's the most beautiful woman alive, she's my favorite actress, I greatly admire her philanthropic work, and she's one of the best guard-down interviewees of all time. V for Vendetta is a big reason why she's become my favorite actress in the five or six years I've been intimately familiar with her work. This might be a message-heavy action film based on a comic book, but dammit if Portman's performance isn't nuanced, tragic, powerful and beautiful. She didn't really generate any Oscar buzz for it, but it's her best performance to date in my book. The gripping head-shaving scene alone is almost enough to earn it that distinction.

Unlike some people who see V for Vendetta as a gimmicky movie that basically exists for the producing and writing Wachowski Brothers to show a masked man doing Matrix fight scenes and communicate a heavy-handed, misguided message about the role of government in the post-9/11 world, I genuinely love James McTeigue's adaptation of Alan Moore's book. In fact, it's a rare instance (Kick-Ass may be another) where I actually prefer the big-screen adaptation to the comic it's based on. I saw V for Vendetta the day it came out in the States in a dark, creepy theater with a capacity of about twenty, and as it crackled onto the screen, I was captivated for the next two hours and change like I had rarely been captivated at the theater before. I was grabbed by the message, the visuals, the storytelling, and the performances, and being previously only familiar with Natalie Portman from her work in the questionable Star Wars prequel trilogy, I was enraptured by her in every frame. This was a time before and The Dark Knight and Avatar, so there was precisely no chance that she would be nominated for Best Actress, but dammit if she didn't deserve to be. She didn't completely own a character quite like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine or Heath Ledger as the Joker, but her performance was just as good as those two, and she brings a convincing pain to the role of Evey that most young actresses today could only dream of bringing.

And for all the buzz about the plot being controversial ("The hero is a terrorist!?") or heavy-handed ("Oh, the hero is a terrorist..."), I unequivocally love it. So many works of literature and films post-George Orwell have made their tweaks on Nineteen Eighty-four, and most have been utterly unnecessary and insulting to the audience. Alan Moore's graphic novel and, in turn, the Wachowski Brothers' screenplay, is not that. It's a unique vision of a dystopian government with an oddly empowering message of using violence to overcome that iron fist. V is undoubtedly a terrorist, but his intelligence and sophistication make him a more appealing hero, and the truly evil behavior of Chancellor Adam Sutler (Played brilliantly by John Hurt, in a role that comes forty years after my favorite role of his, as Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons. This guy's been around for a minute or two.) and his cronies basically justifies V's violent reactions. The only negative thing about this script is that, inevitably, it stirred up truly stupid discussions among Americans about how George W. Bush was just like Sutler, and now, how Barack Obama is just like Sutler. Hey, dumbasses, no. You don't live in constant fear. V for Vendetta is a cautionary tale, but it doesn't take place in the present, and its key contribution is entertainment, not public service.

After watching V for Vendetta for the probably tenth time today, I realized that, even though it's probably not a popular opinion, the film would almost certainly make my top ten of the 2000s, and could even make a slight case for being in my top ten of all time. I love this fucking movie.

The Good: Natalie Portman's career performance – that is, until Black Swan comes out later this year.

The Bad: Eh, I don't really want to think about the few flaws that this movie has because the positives more than make up for them. The flashback scenes could be better, I guess.

The Skinny: I'd have it a hell of a lot higher, but I can imagine a lot of people would like to see it off the list altogether.


  1. Just saw it and I liked it quite a lot, not as much as you do though. And I just checked the date you posted this and I was right of what I thought.
    Remember, remember, the 5th of November...

  2. Even it is because your Portman's stalker... ;)