I may not be an American (I’m Canadian) but I can’t think of anyone I know not paying attention to the U.S. election right now. I’ve anticipated this day more than any other in my entire life. It’s the final hours of votes being counted in some key battleground states, and earlier this afternoon I posted this video down below.
With all that in mind, whether or not you saw the video, here is my review of V for Vendetta. In several short hours I’m going to be watching with the stare and concern of a thousand hawks chasing down rats, and whether or not we get four more years of a pathological liar, racist, science denier and conman, or a man who isn’t perfect and needs to be more supportive of left-leaning policies, but will bring courtesy, common-sense, and compassion for the average working-class American back to the Commander-in-Chief title, this is the movie I wanted to review on this huge night. It’s true, a victor may not be determined tonight, but it could happen.
It’s 2027, and there has been a second civil war in the United States and in Europe it’s nowhere near better. There’s a dictatorship that imprisons and executes Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, atheists…name anyone who Sean Hannity or any religious bigot would deem evil, they’re outta there.
On the night of November 4th, a worker for British Television Network named Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) tries to visit a friend late in the night, risking trouble by going out after curfew. And she finds huge trouble as she’s attacked by a secret police force. But she’s rescued by a masked man named V, who reveals to her that he knows 30 different opulent words that start with the 23rd letter of the alphabet, and the mask he’s wearing is based off of Guy Fawkes, who was one of the orchestrators in a famous government overthrow attempt called the Gunpowder Plot. V ends up showing Evey a major bombing and a hijack of the city’s loudspeakers that he both orchestrated, and Evey tries to navigate her feelings towards this masked figure (but they’re not those kinds of feelings. That wouldn’t be a good story), and avoid authority figures who are trying to pin V down before he gets to them first.
That description may make it sound mundane, but I like to give those sort of synopses to give interested readers more of a surprise, and this movie is definitely that. V for Vendetta is the ultimate conversation starter. It’s not your average graphic novel big-screen take; it demands that you sit back and ask yourself where you would be in this story if you were a witness to these events and you didn’t know as much as these characters. It was so risky to tell this kind of story; in the wrong hands or at the wrong time it could’ve ruined the reputations of everyone associated. I was going to use this term for a different movie, but here it is: this is an example of a punching-bag movie, where you see people you hate get gleefully killed, silenced, stopped, and it’s the protagonist and therefore the hero and role model doing these. Also, you see the perpetrator getting away with it, slowly but effectively dismantling a dictatorship dedicated to keeping their power and doing the same thing to their citizens as V is now doing to them.
I was taught there’s more than one kind of violence. Violence doesn’t just mean punching, threatening, and holding a knife to one’s throat. Violence is also defined when someone in power willfully strips away other people’s rights. Another example; when someone is smeared and ridiculed for, well, anything; their sexuality, religion, ethnicity, even favourite colour. That’s violence. People say violence is wrong all the time, but when you look back at the world, violence of all sorts is perpetrated all the time, especially to low-income citizens, and should those regular people just keep sitting and let it keep happening to them? Is that acceptable? Especially when we see this government kill someone just for owning a copy of the Quran?! What makes V for Vendetta the ultimate punching-bag movie is its methods of getting us invested in this world are so layered, so fully realized, that it is one of the rare films that might make some viewers change their minds on some stances in what the world’s leaders should prioritize. Or act on at all.
What amazes me is this film was made in 2006, at a time way before the MeToo movement, but this film is completely unashamed to talk about the LGBTQ+ world back when states were still allowed to discriminate against them and Canada of all places just had it freshly legalized. And it was only five years after 9/11. You’d think this movie was brand new, because it predicted the future of so many events and our attitude towards them astronomically. It looks controversial topics in the face and says to the world: This is my stance and this is why it makes sense. We have characters here, especially a lady Evey is able to talk to solely from toilet paper and a smuggled pen, that bring to light a story of violence from pure government hatred towards those deemed irregular by the intolerant leadership. You watch that sequence, you watch what Evey goes through, and you realize those rebelling against authority figures, those some are taught to be scared of, aren’t so different from all of us.
There’s a twist that feels like it’s in there solely to be a twist, and the ending has a moment that feels a little out of character for authority figures in spite of a mishap that might make them think again on a certain act. And Stephen Rea’s character is a very layered one but I got the impression he could’ve had a chance to be more uptight at the beginning and go through an even bigger emotional journey. But usually when there’s only small points like these in my criticism, chances are I’m still wholeheartedly recommending it.
V for Vendetta breaks down the curtain and preaches that when you’re wronged, you bite back, and giant corporations and governments should not have the power over your life to sway your decisions and you deserve the right to think for yourself. It shows individuals up against parties that have gotten too tyrannical. If the movie sometimes feels too radical, that is its point.
So, look. To end my review, I just know there are going to be riots in America coming up, whether or not Donald Trump or Joe Biden win. I don’t think politics are ever going to be the same. Whatever’s going to happen, I’m going to do my best to remain calm, accept the things I cannot change, and hope if Trump wins, Canada allows Americans who are scared for their lives to immigrate here. They don’t deserve another four years of fear that today they’ll be deported, blamed for a crime, or shot by a cop.