Dystopian films invariably contain political elements; a foreshadowing of what may come to pass if autocratic leaders remain unchecked. During a period of unmatched instability generated by a novel virus, used globally as a political tool to establish influence, there is a pervading irony in the re-release of V for Vendetta on 4K. The immortal adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel strikes even closer to home in today’s climate, with core messages resonating more powerfully now than during its initial release in 2006. V is every man, woman, and child demanding more from their respective governments; expecting more than just competence, but also compassion.
V returns to our screens in gloriously enhanced 4K, bringing new life to his revolution. James McTeigue’s directorial debut is resplendent in upgraded definition, visually transforming backyard fireworks into a New Year’s display. Unlike previous Moore adaptations, including From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, both of which he was entirely dissatisfied with, V for Vendetta does the source material credit. Yes, it is Americanised and embellished, but as an era-dependent adaptation of anti-Thatcherism, there are few who would argue against its permeating symbolism.
It is 2020 and England is ruled under a Totalitarian regime, with iron-fisted High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt) at the helm. The Norsefire party gained popularity during a chaotic and violent viral pandemic, subsequently profiting from the cure they helped develop. They exert their strength through Orwellian propaganda – Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith – in addition to their strict curfews and fascist laws. The mysterious V (Hugo Weaving), with the assistance of Evey (Natalie Portman), attempt to overthrow the government and liberate the enslaved population of England.
Hugo Weaving has one of the most dynamic voices in Hollywood. Very few can achieve the immaculate enunciation of ‘Isildur’ and the mechanical, menacing intonation of Agent Smith. This is fortuitous as Weaving’s eponymous role in V for Vendetta is largely vocal. His magnetic voice enraptures the audience, and although some may find his alliteration excessive, it strikes the precise note required to personify two larger-than-life characters in Guy Fawkes and Edmond Dantès.
V is a celebrated cult-classic partially due to its stylised visuals, which adds a dramatic edge to the core narrative. The sinister board-room meetings, with Sutler presented as a diabolic despot on a central big screen, are deliciously immoderate and impending. The stark, curfew-enforced British streets are balanced against V’s historical shrine, the gratuitous violence and the pyrotechnics. The explosions are especially impressive, and to the grandiose backdrop of the 1812 Overture, the viewer is a Russian soldier waiting for Napoleon and his Grande Armée to advance over the Neman; waiting for the fireworks to truly begin.
As versatile film composers go, Dario Marianelli must be considered one of the elite. From Atonement to Bumblebee, from Pride and Prejudice to Kubo and the Two Strings, Marianelli is undoubtedly adaptable. His score for V for Vendetta defines the pacing and creates a wonderful backdrop. Of course, it is easier when you have Tchaikovsky and Ella Fitzgerald on the soundtrack, but nonetheless, his pieces transform scenes. There is some beautifully driven exposition; while Evey is detained she finds and reads a note from the previous occupant, Valerie Page. The score develops along a tortuous course as we relive Valerie’s final months, terminating in a famous rooftop-in-the-rain scene, where Evey is finally liberated from her oppressive shackles. The track is fittingly called Evey Reborn; a poignant and powerful example of exemplary storytelling.
The shortcomings of V for Vendetta are largely associated with Chief Inspector Finch’s arc. In a film overflowing with caricatures and alliteration, you may have thought that a grounded official figure would provide necessary balance. Unfortunately, Finch (Stephen Rea) is lifeless and is responsible for carrying a hefty chunk of the narrative. With all the charisma of a beige mannequin, the reveals mediated by Finch fall completely flat. In and amongst Hurt, Portman, and Weaving, a more appropriate casting choice would have favoured the plot.
1984 and The Count of Monte Cristo combine to form this politically charged dystopian drama. For some, it may prove too provocative and coincide with subliminal prejudice, especially in today’s bipartisan landscape. Demagogues preaching religious freedom and simultaneously inciting hatred is commonplace in non-fictional 2020. V shows us the uncomfortable and exaggerated future should these dictators go unopposed. In beautiful 4K, we are again treated to a topical rollercoaster where the populi must find their vox. The revolution is here presented in high resolution.
Dir: James McTeigue
Scr: The Wachowskis
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Tim Pigott-Smith
Prd: Joel Silver, Grant Hill, The Wachowskis
DOP: Adrian Biddle
Runtime: 132 mins
V for Vendetta is available on 4K Ultra HD and Digital now.