'V for Vendetta'
Based on the epic graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, "V for Vendetta" takes place in a near-future England where -- after the upheavals of terrorism, rioting and a couple of plagues -- a fascist, dictatorial government rules through fear and intimidation. Speak out, and be disappeared; stay quiet, and the illusion of freedom is almost perfect. It's just a little tense. All the time.
Into this human Matrix comes a revolutionary called "V", an erudite fellow who hides his face behind a Guy Fawkes mask and aspires to complete the 17th century Fawkes' terrorist act -- to blow up the Houses of Parliament and set England on a new democratic course.
His unwilling apprentice is British Television Network associate Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), whose character arc follows the same resistance, rebirth and revolt structure as Keanu Reeves in the Wachowskis' earlier work ... and it would be truly grand to say that "V for Vendetta" makes the most of that association.
But it flies off the rails about an hour in, with a pivotal reversal botched so badly that it torpedoes both the movie's reality and Portman's moving performance, and progresses through a final movement that makes less and less logistical sense as it unfolds.
There are plenty of things to like about the film: Hugo Weaving's seductive delivery as V is a consistent pleasure, and the supporting cast is a parade of wonderful British talent, from John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Stephen Rea and Sinéad Cusack to such relative unknowns as Ben Miles and Natasha Wightman. And the story's allegorical resonance with certain present-day political realities is created with chilling conviction.
Perhaps the Wachowskis' obsession with getting the details right led them to miss the big picture. Or maybe it was their decision to hand the directorial reins to newbie James McTeigue, who served as their right hand on the "Matrix" trilogy but doesn't seem terribly comfortable with the nuts and bolts of storytelling. Either way, "V for Vendetta" leaves us wondering how its creators went astray, right when they should be carrying us along in their wake.
Repeating its strategy for "Batman Begins," Warner is releasing "V for Vendetta" in single- and double-disc editions. The basic version throws in a 15-minute making-of, "Freedom! Forever!," but the special edition goes the extra mile with nearly an hour of additional content, including featurettes on the creation of the film's near-future reality, the impact of Moore and Lloyd's original graphic novel on the comic industry and the true story of Guy Fawkes, the 17th century rebel who serves as V's inspiration.
Other special-edition bonuses include a montage of film footage set to Cat Power's stirring cover of the Velvet Underground's "I Found a Reason," the theatrical trailer, a soundtrack promo and a hidden bonus for fans of Portman's appearance on "Saturday Night Live" earlier this year.
STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RELEASE DATE: July 25, 2006
PRICE: $28.98 (standard edition)/$34.99 (deluxe edition)
TIME: 132 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: French audio dub; English, French and Spanish subtitles; production featurette. Deluxe edition includes additional featurettes and musical montage.
INTERNET SITE: www.vforvendetta.com