V for Vendetta
Those looking for the fourth installment of The Matrix from the Wachowski Brothers will (thankfully) not find it here. V for Vendetta packs an equally strong punch, only it's more galvanizing than seizure-inducing.
In the future, London won't be quite as jolly good as its present version, according to V for Vendetta. That's where V (Hugo Weaving) comes in. Equal parts Batman, Jack the Ripper, Phantom of the Opera and Michael Moore, V is out to sabotage the totalitarian British regime that oppresses its citizens and that turned him into the masked monster he is. Along the way, he saves a young girl named Evey (Natalie Portman), and tries to turn her on to his cause. She's not quite keen on V's terrorist tactics, but something inside endears her to the man behind the mask--a man only she can truly reach. V's mission is one of more than mere terrorism, though: he hopes to unite all civilians and make the government fear its people, instead of vice versa. As Nov. 5 looms, Evey uncovers V's secrets while V does the same to the government, making it a fifth of November they're sure to remember.
Bravery as applied to a Hollywood performance is bandied about much too often when used in earnest. But if used somewhat superficially, it aptly describes Portman's head-shaving scene--about the "bravest" thing a beautiful actress can do in the context of a movie--especially since it was captured in a single take! G.I. Jane aside, the greatest, classiest actress of her generation again shows why in a dazzling performance. Forget the faux accent, it's the raw emotion she displays, especially in the film's latter stages, that's positively Streep-like and most captivating. And did we mention that, even sans her flowing locks, she's not too rough on the eyes? Weaving's in equally precarious territory, hiding behind a mask. But it adds a perfect mystique to that impeccable eloquence and enunciation of his, evoking that of his Agent Smith in the Matrix flicks. The European Stephens (Fry and Rea), too, provide acting muscle and will hopefully and deservedly gain some American exposure.
Larry and Andy Wachowski are the main story here, even though V is directed by their assistant director on the Matrix trilogy, James McTeigue. He's responsible for the film's look, and what an eye-catching look it is, but the Wachowskis, who wrote and produced, no doubt watched over his shoulder and might be more responsible for its feel. The feel is, like the brothers themselves, very complex. Much as they may not like it, they're a veritable Hollywood brand, and that means if they set out to make a message piece, it's going to be big-budgeted. Such contradictory goals make for occasional incoherence. There's also some indulging: referencing "America's War" in a film set in the not-so-distant future, for example, seems cheap propaganda. Yet many issues remain compelling, and McTeigue sets the right mood for them, with the help of great music choices (Cat Power, Antony & the Johnsons, et al).
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.