Directed by James McTeigue, starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Tim Piggott-Smith and John Hurt.
As summer draws nearer, it's only right that we should face into another blockbuster season with an example of how it should be done. Of how a big-budget film can appeal to the heart, the head and, well, the soul. And once you've seen this every event movie from May to September will seem that little bit duller.
Films set in A Shadowy Future have many fans, but what's onscreen is sometimes so pofaced, self-conscious and in thrall to technology that others would prefer to watch any film about any era rather than sit through one involving robots, totalitarian regimes or society in shreds. This, however, is different: the acting is first class, it isn't creaking under the weight of special effects and the plot is so timely that you'll get a chill watching it.
Adapted from Alan Moore's much cherished-graphic novel, 'V for Vendetta' presents us with a London existing under a dictatorship. Following a series of massive terrorist attacks, Chancellor Sutler (Hurt) has risen to power; the public has been conditioned to live in a constant state of fear - of the powers that be, each other and extremist threats - and civil rights for citizens have disappeared completely.
Among them is Evey Hammond (Portman), a young assistant at the sole, Government-run TV channel, who makes the mistake of being out after curfew. Accosted by secret policemen with more than law and order on their minds, she is saved by a mysterious masked stranger called V (Weaving) who persuades her to accompany him on his night-time foray and then lets her watch as he blows up one of the city's landmarks.
With surveillance cameras everywhere, Evey is linked to the 'attack' and the police, led by Chief Inspector Finch (Rea) come looking for her at work. But V is also a surprise guest at the TV station to put the next stage of his master plan in place. He saves Evey and brings her to his hideout where she begins to discover that she, and millions of others, are living a lie.
'Matrix' duo Larry and Andy Wachowski were responsible for two of the most pofaced, self-conscious and in thrall to technology sequels ever, but their script for 'V for Vendetta' is excellent and together with debutant director James McTeigue (their assistant director on 'The Matrix' movies) they've created a film brimming with anger and suspense. The longer you watch and the more you think about it, the stronger the controversial storyline (bombs on tube trains, killer viruses, references to renditions) resonates and the less far-fetched elements of it become.
The masterstroke here is that the film works as a political thriller, adventure and social commentary and it deserves to be seen by audiences who would otherwise avoid any/all of the three. And the casting is perfect, with Portman yet again showing her range, Weaving brilliant behind the mask, Rea getting a key role as the cop who wakes up from his slumber and Hurt subverting one of his best-known performances as the victim in '1984' by playing the aggressor here.
Long after many blockbusters of this and other summers are forgotten about 'V for Vendetta' will continue to find an audience, becoming a cult favourite whose reputation will only be enhanced with age. You're guaranteed to feel more suspicious and critical of the world by the end of it - but you'll probably feel all the better for it.