A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
It is the year 2020. A virus runs wild in the world, most Americans are dead, and Britain is ruled by a fascist dictator who promises security but not freedom. One man stands against him, the man named V, who moves through London like a wraith despite the desperate efforts of the police. He wears a mask showing the face of Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 tried to blow up the houses of Parliament. On Nov. 5, the eve of Guy Fawkes Day, British schoolchildren for centuries have started bonfires to burn Fawkes in effigy. On this eve in 2020, V saves a young TV reporter named Evey from rape at the hands of the police, forces her to join him, and makes a busy night of it by blowing up the Old Bailey courtrooms.
"V for Vendetta" will follow his exploits for the next 12 months, until the night when he has vowed to strike a crushing blow against the dictatorship. We see a police state that hold citizens in an iron grip and yet is humiliated by a single man who seems impervious. The state tries to suppress knowledge of his deeds -- to spin a plausible explanation for the destruction of the Old Bailey, for example. But V commandeers the national television network to claim authorship of his deed.
This story was first told as a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and published in 1982 and 1983. Its hero plays altogether differently now, and yet, given the nature of the regime. is he a terrorist or a freedom fighter? Britain is ruled by a man named Sutler, who gives orders to his underlings from a wall-sized TV screen and seems the personification of Big Brother. And is: Sutler is played by John Hurt, who in fact played Winston Smith in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1984). (V seems more like Jack the Ripper, given his ability to move boldly in and out of areas the police think they control. The similarity may have come easily to Moore, whose graphic novel “From Hell” was about the Ripper, and inspired a good 2001 movie by the Hughes brothers.
"V for Vendetta" has been written and co-produced by the Wachowskis, Andy and Lana, whose "Matrix" movies also were about rebels holding out against a planetary system of control. This movie is more literary and less dominated by special effects (although there are plenty), and is filled with ideas that are all the more intriguing because we can't pin down the message. Is this movie a parable about 2006, a cautionary tale or a pure fantasy? It can be read many ways, as I will no doubt learn in endless e-mails.