V For Vendetta (2006)

It doesn’t seem like the works of comic book writer Alan Moore have survived the leap to celluloid.

From Hell, the first of Moore’s work to be adapted to film, got mixed reviews, while The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was panned for taking an interesting literary premise and turning it into a summer blockbuster movie.

I’ve only ever read Moore’s Watchmen, and I could appreciate how Moore wrote literary themes within a superhero realm. At the same time, I could also see how difficult it would be to interpret his works on the big screen.

I haven’t read V for Vendetta, so I can’t compare what I saw in the theater to how it is in the book.

But few people are going to miss the parallels between the Thatcherite context during which Moore wrote the work and the reality of the Bush administration today.

In the world of V for Vendetta, the United States has succumbed to disease, terrorism and poverty, while England has come under totalitarian rule.

On a night when a woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) is out past a government-enforced curfew, a masked man (Hugo Weaving), who calls himself V, rescues her from an attack. He takes her up to a rooftop where they witness an explosion rattle an old buildling.

The government attempts to spin the terrorist act as a planned demolition gone awry, but V hijacks the government broadcast service to take credit for his actions.

Two cops (Stephen Rea and Rupert Graves) attempt to track down V, along the way uncovering bits and pieces of a conspiracy. In the meantime, V goes on a killing spree, targeting key committee members of the ruling party.

What V doesn’t anticipate is his growing affection for Evey, which he demonstrates in a very peculiar fashion.

A lot goes on in the plot that its really amazing how it all threads together. Based on what little exposure I’ve had to Moore’s work, it seems the Wachowski brothers left a lot in tact — the complexity of the story has Moore’s imprint.

And just when you think the story gets derailed, it never does. The side story of a lesbian actress, told in retrospect, seems tangential to the plot, until V puts it in perspective.

V for Vendetta has been described as a thinking person’s action movie, and the final slow motion killing sequence caps a film with a lot to say about oppression.

But I wonder how much of this film dervies its power from current events?

Was there a time in recent history when a plot as convoluted as V for Vendetta didn’t seem like a plausible occurrence? (Cynical answer: Yes — it was called the Clinton administration.)

Has the crass behavior of the current administration desensitized my sense of skepticism?

In one scene where a news program reports on the bombing at the start of the film, a TV executive mumbles, "It’s our job to report on events. It’s the government’s job to make them up."

I wasn’t disappointed by the fact I didn’t have to suspend my belief while watching this movie.

Weaving does an excellent job conveying his character’s menace, compassion and hesitancy, all the while hidden behind a mask. Stephen Rea does the worn-down but dogged detective well, and even Portman puts in a good turn transforming from a scared citizen to a brave woman.

I did, however, have to crack the requisite Eminem joke at the end.

V for Vendetta felt a bit like cathartic escapism. The future depicted in the movie isn’t so distant, and what ought to be considered fiction seems toned down compared to reality.