V for Vendetta is a 2005 dystopian thriller film directed by James McTeigue and produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers, who also wrote the screenplay. It is an adaptation of the V for Vendetta comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Set in London in a near-future dystopian society, Natalie Portman stars as Evey, a working-class girl who must determine if her hero has become the very menace he is fighting against. Hugo Weaving plays V—a bold, charismatic freedom fighter driven to exact revenge on those who disfigured him. Stephen Rea portrays the detective leading a desperate quest to capture V before he ignites a revolution.
The film was originally scheduled for release by Warner Bros. on Friday, November 4, 2005 (a day before the 400th Guy Fawkes Night), but was delayed; it opened on March 17, 2006 to positive reviews. Alan Moore, having already been disappointed with the film adaptations of two of his other graphic novels, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, after reading the script for V for Vendetta refused to view the film and subsequently distanced himself from it.
In the 2030s, the world is plagued by environmental blight and the United Kingdom is ruled by a totalitarian government under the fascist Norsefire party. Evey Hammond, a young woman who works at the state-run British Television Network, is rescued from an attempted rape perpetrated by members of the secret police (referred to as “Fingermen” by Evey) by a Guy Fawkes-masked vigilante known as “V”. He leads her to a rooftop to watch his destruction of the Old Bailey. Norsefire tries to explain away the incident as a controlled demolition, claiming the building was no longer structurally sound, but V takes over the state television broadcast the same day, exposing the lie. He urges the people of Britain to rise up against the oppressive government and meet him in one year, on 5 November, outside the Houses of Parliament, which he promises to destroy. Evey helps V to escape, but is knocked out in the process.
V brings Evey to his lair, where she is told that she must stay in hiding until the 5th of November in the following year for her own safety. Upon learning that V is killing government officials, she escapes to the home of one of her superiors, Gordon Deitrich (Stephen Fry). Deitrich has a comedy TV show and one night he satirises the government. The secret police raid Deitrich’s home, capturing him and Evey. She is incarcerated and tortured for days for information about V. She finds solace in notes written by another prisoner, an actress named Valerie Page (Natasha Wightman), who was arrested for being homosexual. Finally, Evey is told that she will be executed immediately unless she reveals V’s location. An exhausted but defiant Evey says she would rather die, and is released. Evey discovers that she has been in V’s lair all along, and that her imprisonment was staged to free her from her fears. She finds out Dietrich was executed for having a copy of the Quran. The notes were real, but they were passed by Valerie to V years earlier when he was similarly imprisoned. Although Evey initially hates V for what he did to her, she realizes she now feels stronger and free in spirit. She leaves him with a promise to return before the 5th of November.
Inspector Finch, Scotland Yard’s chief of police, learns how Norsefire came to power and about V’s origins in the course of his investigation. Fourteen years earlier, the United States had collapsed, the victim of an unleashed bio-weapon (secretly and deliberately utilized by the people who would become the core of the group Norsefire). It is also mentioned later on that the United States is suffering another civil war between the Midwestern states. Britain suffered in the resulting chaos. Norsefire led a reactionary purge to restore order, during which “enemies of the state” frequently disappeared. The country was divided over the loss of freedom until a coordinated bio-terrorist attack upon a school, a water treatment plant and a tube station resulted in around 80,000 deaths. The fear generated by the attack allowed Norsefire to win the next election, thereafter silencing all opposition and turning the United Kingdom into a totalitarian state under High Chancellor Adam Sutler. A cure for the virus used in the bio-terrorist attack was later unveiled by a pharmaceutical company with ties to Norsefire. Finch comes to realize that Sutler and his now security chief, Mr. Creedy, engineered the catastrophe to gain power. The virus was developed through deadly experimentation on “social deviants” and political dissidents at a detention centre in Larkhill where V had been detained with Valerie Page. Unlike the rest of the doomed prisoners, V gained heightened abilities and managed to escape when the centre was destroyed. Finch realizes that a string of murders involving high profile Norsefire party members are actually V taking revenge on those involved with Larkhill.
As the 5th of November nears, V’s various schemes cause chaos in the UK and the population grows more hostile towards Norsefire. V organizes the distribution of thousands of Guy Fawkes masks. On the eve of the 5th, Evey visits V, who shows her a train in the abandoned London Underground which he has filled with explosives to destroy Parliament. He leaves it up to Evey whether to use it, believing that he is unfit to decide. V then leaves to meet Creedy, who had made a deal with V to hand over Sutler in exchange for V’s surrender. Creedy kills Sutler in front of V, but V refuses to surrender and is shot multiple times by Creedy’s praetorian guard. V survives due in part to his concealed armour breastplate, and kills Creedy and his men. Mortally wounded, V returns to Evey to thank her, and he tells her that he is in love with her. He dies in her arms.
As Evey places V’s body in the train, she is found by Finch. Having learned much about the corruption of the Norsefire regime, Finch allows Evey to send the train on its way. Thousands of Londoners, all wearing the Guy Fawkes masks but unarmed, march on Parliament to watch the event. Because Sutler and Creedy are dead and unable to give orders, the military stands down in the face of a civil rebellion. Accompanied by the “1812 Overture”, Parliament and Big Ben are destroyed as Evey and Finch look on. Finch asks Evey for the identity of V, to which she replies, “he was all of us.”
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film:
First Published: Jan 4, 2012 – Last Updated: May 26, 2013