WHAT I LIKED: The great challenge for any story - or indeed debate - about political ideas is to connect collective, theoretical arguments to people's nuanced realities. After all, as the opening lines of the Wachowski's 'V for Vendetta,' state, "ideas don't have feelings," and yet the abstract, subjective experiences of "change," and "freedom," are far too often reduced to just that.
'V for Vendetta,' rather brilliantly avoids falling into those usual traps, as, whilst its titular symbol continually fights and argues against "oppression," and "misinformation," you do actually get a sense that people in the film's future version of Britain feel oppressed, and that there has been a degree of prior political change which has directly led them to that place. On the one hand that's because director James McTeigue keeps cutting to people's living rooms to see their skeptical but resigned reactions to the government-doctored news channels, and it's also because there's a key question in the plot which suggests that the country got into this mess after the government actually killed people with a virus to insite and take advantage of the subsequent panic and fear.
But more than any of that, it translates because the central character is just an ordinary woman called Evie (Natalie Portman) rather than a political figure or a symbol herself. She meets the masked vigilante "V," (Hugo Weaving) who's the symbol propelling the arguments about freedom and change in the film by attempting to open the public's eyes to the truth about their oppression and encouraging them to rise up against it ("a government should be scared of its people"). But it's through Evie that we see how that freedom and change might manifest in reality, as she grows to be able to say and do what she wants without the fear that she'd previously accepted.
As a result of her arc (as well as the fact people begin to become far less resigned behind their tv screens) when V does inevitably inspire the rebellion that he was hoping for, you empathise far more with why the many are marching, and what affects their successful uprising will ultimately have on their everyday lives. And that, for my money, makes it an unusually masterful political commentary which for once gets you to feel the humanity behind its arguments in a serious and rather rousing way.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Because it is almost exclusively focused on translating its themes, it's certainly a more thought-provoking film than it is an emotionally engaging one. Also, some of the stylistic indulgences (the cryptic dialogue, heavy symbolism and cooky action) detract from even that.
VERDICT: 'V for Vendetta,' achieves that rare thing in being a political commentary that translates its heady ideas to individual realities, and that makes it a profoundly thought-provoking watch.