V for Vendetta
It was interesting coming out of the cinema after watching V for Vendetta as neither of us were sure that we had really enjoyed it or not. Our thoughts were mixing the film with current events and making connections to what is happening in the world around us right now, and with that came an unease and awkwardness of how the movie played so close to events that had occurred around us.
I had always said from the outset that they should not compromise the film for what had happened during the London bombings, I really hope they didn't and to all accounts at the time there wasn't any concession made.
Looking back on it now, the following morning, and reviewing my notes, there are some things that become very clear.
Before I start the review in earnest I just want to make a heartfelt thanks to the Management and Staff at Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema. They've been one of the few companies who have stuck by me through this longer than expected move, and this weekend they've really helped out in bringing these reviews to you. Excellent cinema and very helpful staff. Many thanks to them.
The first thing that became clear is that after I went on record and wrote that I understood Alan Moore's argument in his lengthy interview, now I've seen Vendetta I totally disagree with his thoughts on the film adaptation. I've read the graphic novel and have nothing invested in it other than a fan of his work and of that novel, and after seeing the film I'm amazed at how well they've stuck to it and kept the ideas, even dialogue. This, and I've said this before but the ante has just been officially upped, is the yardstick by which comic and graphic novel adaptations should be measured.
Secondly, it's a damn good film. I mean really good and strong throughout. I find myself still thinking about this issues it has raised, and I'm still questioning the film and that's a very good and a very rare thing indeed.
It's odd coming out of a film and not really knowing how you feel about it, but after we talked it over and I've had time to think more on it I put this down to how controversial many of the subjects it talks about really are, and how close to the truth a lot of the commentary is. It made us feel uneasy and think about what we'd seen, rather than racing out of the cinema feeling something about the film and within five paces turning to the drive home and wondering about work tomorrow.
Even if I'd come away thinking this was a bad film I'd have to congratulate the people who made it for what they've done. Not only because they are American and stood up and made such a film when the climate in America appears to be conformity and unity, but also that they had the determination to stand up against the tide of mediocrity that is coming out of Hollywood. Okay, that is beginning to change with recent films we've seen winning awards, but it's still very much true. This is a different film to those that are being made just now, even to superhero films, and that at least should be recognised.
It's especially true of this film because it takes chances with the way it's filmed, the dialogue, and the whole controversial story. After having so much negativity against the Matrix sequels, and believing you have an image of the lead Producer, for them all to come together and produce a dialogue strong film with some strong action sequences and huge moralistic tales to tell, and end up with an excellent movie at the end of it shows guts and belief indeed.
Some reviewers I've read have said that this represents a slight against America, and even Moore in his interview says that he sees the huge polar opposites of his story watered down to represent the differing views in America. I don't agree at all. This film is not about American politics and beliefs, it's about World politics and beliefs, it's about human beliefs and the devolution of control from the people to the leaders of nations.
The tale is as much about what is happening in the UK as it is about America. In fact the methods of the Government who are clandestine, cover up, constant spin and continually burying information whenever it comes out, is more like UK politicians than it is American. After all our Government lie about involvement in sending people to Guantanamo and then ignore it, at least American politicians are up front about it.
Anyway, I digress into worldly comparisons. The point to show here is that it is a very strong representation of the World we face today, and still holds a very relevant opposing view. I believe that this goes against what Moore has said in his comments, this is a very strong film from that point of view and really does well to hold up the beliefs of the original work in todays society.
It also shows how much this film makes you think, and question, and this is the feeling I carried out of the cinema. It's a slow burner, a thought provoking film, and one that doesn't go away after twenty minutes driving.
Some thing that surprised me about the film, apart from its strong hold to the original work, was how much more character orientated this film is compared to what we've come to expect from the Matrix group. The script delivered great lines and some witty, sarcastic and heavily ironic moments.
The cast is very bold, not only in the fact that it's so heavily British (apart from the two main leads that is), but it's also so very strong.
Hugo Weaving was very well cast, and delivered his lines wonderfully coping with a couple of different English accents with ease.
Interestingly we both found Natalie Portman ever so slightly grating with her controlled and ever so precise English accent. We couldn't quite put our finger on it, and part of it may be due to her previous huge role in Star Wars, or that the accent was just too controlled, we're not entirely sure. Still though, she showed again what a commanding actress she is at such a young age by showing us an emotionally strong performance that at times was quite affecting.
The rest of the British cast was excellent, particular mention should go to Stephen Fry who is a delight to see on screen in any capacity. He needs so many more roles like this, he can carry the weight and brevity of a moment and turn it with that sarcastic wit of his. I was utterly mesmerised by him and this is an official call to see more of his work in films.
John Hurt gave an outstanding performance of strength and commanded the screen. The different stages of his character were played superbly and he is just so utterly convincing. As a distinct contrast to that, Stephen Rea provided the perfect embodiment of a tired and embittered Inspector, weary of his choices and burdens, and showing just a touch of decency.
This, without a doubt, goes to remind Hollywood that we have a wealth of talent in British actors and they need to tap them more often.
I was impressed with the direction too, James McTeigue never swamped the screen or took it over as had been done so often in the Matrix films. He kept everything restrained, and continually seemed to hold back when images and action could have taken over.
One such moment was near the end as the Army begin to see the march, I was hit with the sudden wave of concern that this was about to turn to a block of cheese, but it didn't, and actually turned out quite well. Yes, it was filled with a sympathetic and moralistically strong message, but it never destroyed itself in the process.
Another moment of surprise in the direction for me was the final fight scene of the film - don't worry, no spoilers in my reviews - which did two things that I've harped on about for a long time now. It slowed the action down and held the camera back, and what happened? We were treated to one of the most excellent action sequences of the entire film, in fact it ranks pretty high on the action sequence list of any film for me. It was superbly done and goes to show that shaky-cam and tight shots to hide what's happening and confuse the audience, in effect slight of hand, isn't the best or only way to portray a fight sequence.
The film does an excellent job of turning around viewpoints and takes you back and forth in your sympathies. From the changing aspect of V's character to that of Evey, it shows a complex and evolving tale. Something that it also manages to turn is your viewpoint of the label of terrorist, bringing you to look at the terrorist V in a different light, a light that changes throughout the film.
Overall this is an excellent comic book \ graphic novel adaptation. For me it's probably the best to date, sure I can hear you say Superman or Batman, but they have most definitely taken a life of their own and evolved away from those works even while they still borrow from them. This, however, is a direct adaptation, and one of the best.
The script writing, acting and direction are all very strong and provide for much more food for thought than just the walk out the cinema doors. It's current, relevant, and as bold a decision to make as that of any other political drama being touted just now, and these guys should be recognised for that.
I actually can't find any fault with this film, there are some moments that could have been done better. The march against the Army I did find to be a moment that went against the power of the film slightly, and the accent of Portman caused the odd grate here and there. The final section of the film also seemed rushed just a touch, yet it did do a wonderful job of driving the story along. So niggles yes, faults, not really.