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V for Vendetta

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by James McTeigue 
Starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt  
An image from V for Vendetta

Visualise the near future and Britain stands strong in an otherwise war-torn world. Violent clashes remain though, with the ruling Norsefire party led by High Chancellor Sutler (Hurt), imprisoning all of whom they disapprove. Virtually everyone is being watched, so when Evey (Portman) breaches state imposed curfew and is pounced on in the street by Norsefire’s “Fingermen”, she rightly fears the worst. Vigilante “V” (Weaving), a Guy Fawkes-masked potential madman comes to her rescue, but little does Evey know what her saviour has planned for Sutler and his fascist Government.

V takes Evey to the rooftops where he points out the Old Bailey in the distance – cue fireworks and dynamite – as the bastion of the British Legal system comes tumbling down. Vacuous claims by the Chancellor of an emergency demolition may have settled the fears of the people – V has other plans, interrupting TV broadcasts to declare his involvement and insight rebellion amongst the people.

Verisimilitude apparent in V’s every action, Evey finds herself torn between learning more about the man who saved her, and trying to continue with her life. Violence as the only way out, with a man she is only beginning to understand? Vilified by the state forever more? Vengeance as a remedy?

V for Vendetta is one of the great movies of the last decade. Largely regarded as a success upon its release and vexed only by debate over its faithfulness to Alan Moore’s graphic novel, V’s mask has subsequently taken on further significance as the image of uprising. Visually stunning and featuring stand-out performances from Weaving, Portman and Hurt, V for Vendetta is the Wachowski’s best post-Matrix offering by far. Villainous vermin or virtuous victim? Visit and gauge V for yourself.

Robert Gardner

Britain in the near future labours under a totalitarian regime, while the world’s superpowers have destroyed each other in a nuclear war. Secret police roam the streets, arresting and beating anyone breaking curfew. They happen upon Evey Hammond (Portman) on the same night as the verbose, masked freedom fighter codenamed “V” (Weaving), who rescues Evey, blows up the Old Bailey, and gives the people of Britain one year to throw off their metaphorical shackles.

Despite being produced by the Wachowksi brothers, V for Vendetta is no bullet-time-riddled Matrix with masks. Based on the graphic novel by the extraordinary Alan Moore, it paints a grim vision of the future, with Britain governed by the fascist Norsefire party, its people living under constant surveillance, curfews and quarantine zones - and accepting it without question. Weaving’s psychotic anarchist is a charismatic and enjoyable foil to Portman’s rather goody-two-shoes Evey, but the pleasure really comes from the moral dilemmas and unanswerable questions the film raises.

Hollywood has done its usual hatchet-job on the original text, hence Moore’s distance from this and another adaption, Watchmen, but the Conservative MP-turned-fascist-dictator (Hurt) with a suspiciously familiar sounding name and the Guy-Fawkes-masked terrorist who spouts liberal dogma while he blows up buildings are there to challenge us, and perhaps most affecting is the apathy and ignorance with which the people accept the crimes committed by their government to ensure that “England Prevails!”. Whatever your political views, V for Vendetta is a damn fine film, and who knows, it might even make you think.

Marcus Kelly


V for Vendetta follows a man aiming to right the wrongs in his and England’s life in a police state set around 20 years in the future. With both the Wachowski brothers as writers & producers and James McTeigue as director, all of whom worked on The Matrix, one could be forgiven for expecting a Matrix rework. However although they share some ideas, V is distinct in its style, overall content and message. Portraying a masked character leaves Weaving as V with the task of having to engage the audience's attention whilst constantly deprived of his main means of conveying emotion. He manages remarkably well and there is a sorrow throughout his depiction that is clearer through the mask. Although Portman doesn't really expand much on previous, perhaps typecast, roles she nevertheless conveys an emotional awakening with a mature and interesting style.

Excluding one or two slow areas the movement of the film is quick enough to keep most viewers occupied, though this is not simple viewing and requires a degree of concentration. While the basic premise for the vendetta are made clear almost immediately, Vs personal issues are slowly hinted at and built upon as the intriguing and entertaining web is spun out. British audiences will also no doubt be amused by the Mary Poppins style dialogue that seems to be the base for any American portrayal of English life. The Orwellian undertones are obvious to anyone with even a slight familiarity to 1984, but the totalitarian element is not overwhelming. The bleak nature of the oppressive lifestyle is not total, with a number of significant moments in the plot that allow us to realise there is nearly always a chance of reprieve if only we have the courage to stand up and be counted. The main warning prevalent from the narrative is that of the danger of unthinking public obedience.

With a good script, lively supporting acting from the likes of Stephen Fry and clever camera tricks expected from any Wachowski Brothers film, V leads us to the conclusion that it is the idea that is important and that the actions of leaders should not always be accepted so lightly. An entertaining and subtly thought provoking film.

Gavin Alexander

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Summer Term (35mm)
2005/2006 Summer Term (35mm)
2010/2011 Autumn Term (35mm)
2010/2011 Autumn Term (35mm)
2013/2014 Autumn Term (35mm)