V For Vendetta (2006)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 3/17/06
Director: James McTeigue
Written By: Andy and Larry Wachowski, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore
Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam

Brilliant! Fabulous! Beautifully compelling and powerfully inspiring! Alan Moore's alarmist tale of a totalitarian England brilliantly comes to life in what is probably the most thoughtful and thought provoking comic book adaptation I've seen to date. While the Wachowski's screenplay isn't faithful to the details, it fully embraces the spirit of Moore's work, much in the same way that the title character's mask represents an idea, not a man. Reportedly, Alan Moore was so disgusted with the film that he requested that his name not be associated with it at all, and gave all of his royalties to David Lloyd, the book's illustrator. I found the adaptation to be remarkably satisfying, but Moore purists may want to just avoid it altogether.

Twenty or so years in the future, war has plunged the nations of the world into chaos. England manages to survive, but in doing so has become a totalitarian police state under the forceful rule of Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt with ENORMOUS pupils). To deal with famine, plague, and overpopulation, the government rounds up and exterminates all of the country's "undesirables" - Blacks, Asians, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, political activists, etc. The remaining populace is fed a steady diet of lies, propaganda, religion, and mind-numbing entertainment through the government's media network, which keeps them blissfully sedated and ignorant of the government's sinister machinations. One extraordinary individual known only as "V" takes it upon himself to incite a revolution and avenge past sins. When he meets a young girl named Evey Hammond (breathtaking Natalie Portman), both of their lives are forever changed.

First and foremost, Natalie Portman is utterly AMAZING. After seeing her sleepwalk through the last three "Star Wars" films, it's delightfully refreshing to see her in top form. Her performance is inspired and heartbreaking, and her transformation in the middle of the film is physically tangible. After her rebirth, she is a totally different person. Hugo Weaving also gives a superb performance as V, whose body expresses everything that his hidden face cannot. All of the supporting actors are wonderful as well, including a thoughtful and sensitive performance by English funnyman Stephen Fry. The production values are top notch and the film looks spectacular, utilizing the same dark and dramatic hues that "The Matrix" films used. The visual effects are excellent and the swelling musical score is strong and emotionally stirring. A fantastic film on all accounts (except for maybe the closing credits), and much like the people of England at the end of the film, my bitter and cynical self left the theater inspired with a renewed feeling of hope - both for Hollywood and myself.