Action films are fun, for all the reasons that make action films stand out over a simple drama filled film, with slight action like moments. But after awhile they can all start to look the same and the idea that one can truly be more than just explosions starts to get lost. Explosions, chases, and fight sequences are good and all, but can’t audiences get something more than that? Something truly memorable perhaps?
The Warner Bros. Pictures film “V for Vendetta”, features a fascinating story that stays surprisingly grounded in its dystopian set world.
This drama film stars Natalie Portman (upcoming “Jackie”, “Jane Got a Gun”), Hugo Weaving (“Hacksaw Ridge”, “The Dressmaker”), Stephen Rea (“Dickensian”, “War & Peace (2016)”), Stephen Fry (“Alice Through the Looking Glass”, “Love & Friendship”), and John Hurt (upcoming “Jackie”, “The Last Panthers”).
The film was directed by James McTeigue (“Marco Polo”, “Sense8”) and written by The Wachowskis (“Sense8”, “Jupiter Ascending”). It is based on the graphic novel of the same name by David Lloyd and Alan Moore.
The film originally opened on March 17, 2006.
While this film technically is over 10 years old now, I couldn’t completely pass it up. Not for that reason anyway. I missed my shot at it at the beginning of the year and am now taking full advantage of it. Why? Well, in case you hadn’t figured it out, it’s because of this day. The fifth of November. Yeah, yeah, kind of lame, but it gave me a good reason to sit down and enjoy all of the amazingness that this film offers. It also gives me a chance to semi-celebrate this film. I did that once before with a group of friends, and it was fun, different, and made this film a bit more special than it already was.
Since I’m not aiming to overanalyze this film, in any way, or at least try my best not to, I’m just going to start by stating something that didn’t come to me until after the film’s credits started rolling. This film is visually stunning. It has some of the color treatment that would come to make “300” and Zack Snyder so memorable, but it’s not as obnoxious, and now tiresome because of Snyder. It works in this film’s favor, which may or may not be true for “300”, but seeing as I hate the film and haven’t revisited it since the first time I saw it (or plan on doing so again), I can’t say for certain if it too didn’t get a boost. The boost I speak of isn’t just for some kind of flashy and unique visuals, but one that actually benefits the film’s story. More specially, the world. Because of the world this film takes place in, it demanded a certain type of look, which was fortunately achieved on all levels. Everything from sets to costumes to the general atmosphere, easily came to life and popped off the screen. It certainly gave you a better sense of what it’s like in this futuristic dystopian world.
Speaking of the world. It’s just so vivid. So well built. Not a single moment is wasted, even when you’re spending mere seconds with that random family and the little girl who gets shot, or the elderly people watching the television. It all serves a purpose. The funny thing is, I think this film could’ve easily gotten away with not showing these citizens, but because it did, the emotional impact is that much stronger. Which brings me back to the vividly created world. I do feel that so many films, even when they succeed on many other crucial levels, don’t bring you fully in. You know you’re watching a film and feel only so much. Yes you can enjoy it, but that’s about it. Here, after all this time, I could feel it. I was just another citizen in this fucked up world. So many different emotions, usually one right after the other, allowed for me to actually feel more than just sympathy for Portman or Weaving’s characters. I go angry. Disgusted. Horrified. Plus many other emotions, but you get it. The fact that I could be so moved, was surprising. Getting in that deep was not what I had anticipated at all. Thus, even though I can’t fully explain it, I feel I got so much more than just an entertaining and well made film.
One reason for that lies in the fact that this is a character driven film. It completely explains how one is able to get into this film and remain the entire time. It also explains how, even when this film moves at a somewhat slower speed than you’d expect from an action film, it never bores you. You’re not pulled out, wishing something would happen, and growing irritated all the while. It gives you something tangible. While this world isn’t something you can relate to (and hopefully we never get close to it, or anything that’s too different from what exists now), it may as well be a distant memory.
Portman and Weaving, through strong performances, plus (surprisingly) the Wachowski’s, managed to create such dynamic characters. Each one, from start to finish, is just as vivid as the world they live in. This is certainly one of those times where we go beyond likability or find that a single action makes them cool or badass. We know them so well. It’s like with the other citizen’s we see every so often. It’s deep. When we learn about all aspects of Portman and Weaving’s character’s, plus their relationships to anyone else, particularly Portman to Fry, it’s genuine. If this film has any other obnoxious faults, and it may, any kind of viewer can breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that this film manages to do what so few action films, or graphic novel adaptations can’t. Humanize its characters. Give you a reason to be invested. This film (which I just thought about) can also find success in that there’s actual stakes. Nobody is safe, and this film very well could’ve had a much grimmer ending than it did.
I can’t leave out Rea and Hurt. Two brilliant actors, both of whom along with many others, completed this world building. Hurt, while merely a shouting and angry giant face on a screen, managed to evoke fear. By the end of the film I was scared of him. Granted, this was also due to the fact that things kept spiraling out of his control, but he served his purpose. Rea, well, he was more the opposite of Hurt and every other government official around. He was still curious. What started out as Rea just trying to investigate a crime, turned into a more serious exploration. A hunt for the truth and who he is in this world. By film’s end, he’s fully been tested. Which is strongest, loyalty or doing what’s right? While Rea didn’t have much beyond that which he discovered, to convey anything about his character, he managed to bring a character to life that afforded us a different viewpoint. Again, we have those other citizens; the family of the girl who gets shot, the elderly people and so on, and each gives us their worldview. They’re not quick to buy into what the government is selling. Rea merely becomes convinced. Being put in the crosshairs a time or two, plus all his other discoveries, apparently works well as a an argument against loyalty.
From a film standpoint, Rea’s character makes sense. We were already on the side of good, even if that meant that Weaving had to kill a few bad people, but didn’t have a way to look into how others probably saw the world. Rea bridged that for us, and in a decent enough way, that it’s just as effective as anything Portman or Weaving conveys.
I guess you could also find other meanings in this film, but that’s a perk and one I’m not going to explore here, if I’ve managed to avoid doing so already. If you want to know, watch the film and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. I also find that it’s not necessary. This film, more or less, conveyed everything it needed too. No additional exploration need to be undertaken.
Action films don’t need much to make them fun and entertaining. High speed action, good visual effects, and original fight sequences, among other things, and you’ll probably end up with a satisfied audience. However, if a writer or director or any creative person, is given the opportunity to present something even a bit more intelligent and challenging, why not take it? Too often action film’s lack even lack deep character insights. An action film, which this film kind of was, doesn’t have to be devoid of compelling content, be it the story itself or human drama. They can all exist in a single film and deliver a memorable and fun film, that can remain as such even a decade later.