V for Vendetta
“Remember, remember! The fifth of November,” won’t mean much to the majority of readers. Some of you might be thinking right now, “Remember what? That the 112 homework was due?” However, random as the date may seem, it forms one of the fundamental pillars of the movie V for Vendetta, a fast-paced dystopian flash-forward into neo-fascist London. Essentially, the movie portrays life in the UK in the wake of devastating world war and various forms of internal strife, including pandemics and national biohazard emergencies. The Nazi-esque Norsefire Party, promising political stability and a panacea for the populace’s all-consuming fear, took over and consolidated their power by transitioning quickly to fascist regime.
The movie begins by introducing the audience to their protagonist: Evey, portrayed a young Natalie Portman. Evey is a government employee by day at the British Television Network, which functions as a propaganda puppet of the state. Evey, while out past curfew on the eve of November 5th, is brought together through a serendipitous chain of events with the charismatic and mysterious “V”. V not only wears a Guy Fawkes mask and sports a billowing black cape that may give viewers flashbacks to a certain potions master, but it soon becomes apparent that he carries an intimidating array of knives. He’s dangerous, witty, and passionate, all qualities that prompt Evey to accompany him to a downtown rooftop overlooking the Old Bailey for what V promises will be the “best orchestra” she’s ever heard. As Tchaikovsky’s heavy-handed 1812 Overture begins to blare across London’s speakers in the dead of night, Evey and V watch side by side as the Old Bailey courthouse explodes, filling the night with fireworks and flames. In the wake of explosion, Evey knows little except that V is responsible, but soon she gets drawn into his web of subterfuge, plotting, and sharply-executed revenge.
However, soon parallels between Evey’s and V’s pasts begin to arise, bringing with them more questions than answers. How and why does V select his targets? Can Evey morally condone his methods? How far is Evey willing to go to avenge the people in her life who’ve been ripped away by the Norsefire regime? As Evey finds herself pulled deeper and deeper into V’s world, she must both confront the painful events of her past and uncover the inner strength hidden in her personality. As both attempt to evade government detection while inciting rebellion amongst London’s masses, some members of the government begin to question the “official” history books as well. What is conspiracy and what is truth?
Admittedly, this movie can feel a tad overwrought sometimes, with special effects bordering on gaudy and action scenes laden with absurdly gratuitous violence. The dialogue, while delivered with great verve by the leads, seems overly heavy at times due to the omission of humor from the high-stakes plot. Furthermore, the absolute division of all people and organizations into “good” and “bad” often lacks nuance, and leaves some characters as one-dimensional at best.
However, despite this cheese-factor, The Wachowski Brothers' V for Vendetta ultimately stands as an inspiring testament to the power of one person to spark change. The movie implores us to always question and root out injustice wherever we see it in the world around us, and to never settle for corruption or lies in our political system. Evey and V both discover their own capacity to endure personal hardships over the course of the movie, but they also learn how powerful the voices of citizens are when they all demand to be heard at once. As we nervously skid towards this election season’s conclusion, crossing our fingers and biting our nails, this movie serves as an important reminder that we all must take responsibility and stand up together for what we believe in. The very best way to do that, voting, may not make for quite such engaging cinematic fare as cloaked nighttime capers through the streets of London, but it’s equally important. Remember, remember! ... The eighth of November.