"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
V for Vendetta is a 2006 film based on the comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.The title character is V (Hugo Weaving), a government experiment Gone Horribly Wrong. Armed with extraordinary intellect and fighting skills, along with some home-made high explosives, he escapes from the facility that created him and sets about committing terrorist attacks against the fascist government of Britain. He is The Faceless throughout the film, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask in order to conceal his true identity. The fact that Guy Fawkes was arrested for trying to blow up the king has something to do with it, of course.Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) is rescued from rapist policemen by V, and this act of kindness starts the film. She is taken to his Elaborate Underground Base, and, although scared by V at first, she decides to join his campaign to bring down the Government, replacing it with an anarchist society.Where the original comic was influenced by Alan Moore's fears of Thatcherite Britain becoming a repressive dictatorship, the film owes more to critics of the second Bush administration along with several other changes with the characters and plot to condense the story and reconfigure it to resemble a more standard superhero tale, complete with super powers for V.
This film provides examples of:
Adaptational Wimp: The movie turns Gordon Dietrich into a chubby, middle-aged comedian (played by Stephen Fry, no less) when he was a younger, more physically imposing career criminal in the book. Then again, the film also has him defying the Party's laws by hiding banned books and films in his house, and openly mocking Chancellor Sutler on his show, which is far more badass than anything the character did in the book.
V: Voilà! In View, a humble Vaudevillian Veteran, cast Vicariously as both Victim and Villain by the Vicissitudes of fate. This Visage, no mere Veneer of Vanity, is a Vestige of the Vox populi, now Vacant, Vanished. However, this Valorous Visitation of a bygone Vexation stands Vivified, and has Vowed to Vanquish these Venal and Virulent Vermin Vanguarding Vice and Vouchsafing the Violently Vicious and Voracious Violation of Volition! The only Verdict is Vengeance; a Vendetta held as a Votive, not in Vain, for the Value and Veracity of such shall one day Vindicate the Vigilant and the Virtuous. Verily, this Vichyssoise of Verbiage Veers most Verbose, so let me simply add that it's my Very good honour to meet you and you may call me V.
"Vi veri veniersum vivus vici".note Translates to: "By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe."
The Alternet: The monolithic computer from the comic book is replaced with something called the Interlink, more or less implied to be the same as the Internet (minus the free speech aspect, of course).
Aluminum Christmas Trees: Some contemporary reviewers find the idea of "concentration camps" for homosexuals, eradicate homosexuality even as an abstract concept, etc. to be sort of an invocation of Godwin's Law by comparing Thatcher's England to Nazi Germany. However, in the early 1980s one of Margaret Thatcher's advisors did indeed make the suggestion, as a public health policy, that all gay men should be put into quarantine in closed institutions as a strategy to stop the spread of HIV infections. Alan Moore's Word of God says this aspect of the dystopia was a direct commentary on the implications of such proposals. The real life idea never took off.
Although Moore wasn't referencing it gay concentration camps really did exist for a time in communist Cuba.
Apocalypse Anarchy: Invoked by V, who's trying to bring about the end of a fascist system by increasing the amount of disorder. He inspires the population to more acts of violence and vandalism, which causes the government to crack down, which leads to more uprising...
Inverted in the backstory, in which a minor apocalypse brings about not anarchy, but fascism.
Apocalypse How: Class 1 — Societal Disruption or Collapse on a Regional or Continental scale.
V: "Who" is but the form, following the function of "what", and what I am is a man in a mask. Evey: Well I can see that. V: Of course you can, I'm not questioning your powers of observation, I am merely commenting on the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
Attempted Rape: V meets Evey when he saves her from a police gang-rape.
Audible Sharpness: Whenever V breaks out his knives expect lots of "cutting the air" noises. In V's grand battle they even have visible sharpness.
Author Filibuster: There's still technically the question of is this right or is this mad, but the film really really wants you to cheer on the anarchists. In the montage, as narrated by Mr. Finch, where V's plan involving the masks and the train cars is coming to fruition, a quick exchange takes place as such:
Mr. Finch: This is what he wants. (cut to convenience store being robbed) Fawkes-masked robber:ANARCHY IN THE UK! (cut back to Mr. Finch) Mr. Finch: Chaos.
Creedy: You've got nothing. Nothing but your bloody knives and your fancy karate gimmicks. We have guns. V: No, what you have are bullets, and the hope that when your guns are empty I am no longer standing, because if I am, you'll all be dead before you've reloaded.
Only Creedy and one Mook manage to reload their weapons. V kills the Mook before he can fire, and Creedy's shots don't slow him down.
V: What was done to me was monstrous. Evey: And it created a monster?
Beware the Superman: V, if you consider him a villain. His backstory is basically the archetypal superhero origin story in its most distilled form (downtrodden man is injected with experimental chemicals that give him peak-human abilities, dons a costume and goes off to fight evildoers) but his experiences also drive him insane, leading him to become an anarchist terrorist instead of a crime fighter.
Big Bad: Adam Sutler is the movie's obvious antagonist.
Bittersweet Ending: Britain is free of the dictatorship that had been ruling the country, but V lost his life in the process, and we don't know how well Britain will be able to take care of itself without a government in charge. The comic also ends with Evey possibly training the future government as the second V, potentially leaving the identity to a third party.
Black Market Produce: On Evey's first morning in the Shadow Gallery, she is given toast with her breakfast and is astonished to find real butter. V explains that he stole it from the Chancellor's supplies.
Blown Across the Room: V does this to two of Creedy's guards with thrown knives in the film's climax. The early fight scene with the police also has bodies flying further than you'd think.
Book Ends: The 1812 Overture. The film opens with the first notes and ends with the crescendo.
Bottomless Magazines: Averted. V mentions that when the mooks are out of ammo, they'll be dead before they can reload.
Broken Aesop: The movie goes for a pretty unambiguous Aesop about the importance of individual freedom and thinking for yourself, portraying V as a "freedom fighter" hero. Fine...but his crusade against Norsefire still relies on kidnapping and torturing an innocent girl to make her more sympathetic to his cause, and it ends with him being hailed as a martyr by a mob of his devoted supporters, who proceed to show their devotion by donning identical black outfits and marching in lockstep towards the nation's capital. You know...for freedom.
Re-made once Parliament goes up in flames; when they take off their masks, they are revealed as every non-Norsefire character in the movie - with a focus on those who died. If you truly want to be free, You Are Not Alone.
Bulletproof Vest: V wears one. Subverted at the end, however. After taking several handgun magazines to the chest, V pulls together enough Heroic Resolve to kill every one of his attackers, but he pulls off his bloody, bullet-riddled armor and dies of his wounds shortly thereafter.
Bury Your Gays: Gordon Dietrich, who in the comic is a petty criminal (but still Nice Guy) who sleeps with Evey before getting stabbed to death by a Scottish gangster, is in the film a closeted gay television host and comedian. He ends up being arrested for making fun of the Big Bad on TV, then executed when they find out he's gay and has a Koran.
Byronic Hero: V, perhaps moreso in the comic than the movie.
Crapsack World: It's a post-nuclear wasteland, the second coming of the Nazis has taken power over Britain, and the only person who dares to stand up to them is an apparently insane terrorist who wants to replace them with... nothing. Though it mainly focuses on Britain, the movie also frequently hints at the chaos breaking out in the rest of the world. Apparently, America is now in the middle of a second civil war, it's described as "the world's biggest leper colony," and its leaders beg for humanitarian aid from the UK, sparking Lewis Prothero's rant about how they should dump the cargo of a ship sent from America into the ocean as revenge for the Boston Tea Party.
Demoted to Extra: Conrad Heyer, the head of The Eye, briefly appears near the beginning when Sutler's advisors are assembled, but the subplot about his wife manipulating him into trying to usurp the government is cut.
Fallen States of America: Prothero claims that the 'Ulcered Sphincter of Arse-erica' has become the world's biggest leper colony, and what remains of its government is desperately petitioning Britain to provide them with humanitarian aid and medical supplies. It's not clear whether or not this is true or fascist propaganda.
False Flag Operation: Norsefire rose to power by poisoning a school and a water plant with a virus they engineered. Then they swooped in and provided an antidote to the poison.
V plants suspicion in Creedy's mind about Sutler by having the investigation team spy on Creedy and convincing him that it is Sutler doing the spying. This and Sutler's own actions eventually lead to Creedy turning on him.
Fire/Water Juxtaposition: The scene of Evey basking in a rainstorm outside the Shadow Gallery following her "rebirth" late in the film is contrasted with a flashback of V experiencing a similar moment of renewal in the fiery ruins of Larkhill. The scene provides the page image for this trope.
Flaming Emblem: The Title Sequence does this. V also forms his logo in fireworks explosions twice in the film, near the beginning and at the end.
Forensic Accounting: After the Norsefire bureaucracy stonewalls his investigation when it treads too close to the uncomfortable secrets surrounding Larkhill, Inspector Finch goes to the tax office to look through their records.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: The man (in shadows) who tries to talk an "imprisoned" Evey into confessing is Hugo Weaving himself, out of costume except for V's gloved hands. Also, William Rookwood (V in a mask) resembles an older Weaving.
Evey: I don't want you to die! V (who else): That is the most beautiful thing you could have ever given me...
Gory Discretion Shot: When the Fingerman who shot the little girl is cornered by angry citizens, one of the men swings a wrench at the Fingerman's face. The shot cuts away before it connects but it's easy to imagine what happened.
Particularly since there's a metallic impact sound when the scene shifts.
Great Offscreen War: It's heavily implied that the United States are (or were) in the throes of a second Civil War at the time of the film, in addition to being devastated by a plague. In his opening monologue, Prothero refers to the country as "the former United States", in the style of "the former Soviet Union".
Harmful to Minors: One of the police spots a young girl in a V mask, and shoots her. This kicks the revolution into full swing.
Held Gaze: Happens twice between V and Evey, at one time verging upon an Almost Kiss. Somewhat subverted in that the film shows that V is always wearing his mask which conceals even his eyes but the romantic tension created is still clear.
Heroic Willpower: V manages to hold off on any penalty to attack or agility for what looks like several minutes after being pumped full of bullets that penetrated a metal chestplate in at least two dozen places. Since the entire scene is in slow-motion, it's probably only about thirty seconds, but that's still more than most people would be likely to manage. Ten fingermen, all armed with Beretta Inoxes with 15 round magazines, and Creedy with his magnum, empty their magazines into him... he takes at leasta hundred-fifty bullets and still manages to kill them all. However, after that... he's spent.
Historical Hero Upgrade: The film did this for Guy Fawkes, even though that was never Moore's intent. In reality, his "hero" status is highly dubious. The Gunpowder Plot wasn't really to strike a blow for freedom, they simply wanted to replace the Protestant king with a Catholic one. Further, they packed in so much gunpowder that hundreds (possibly thousands) of innocent civilians would have been killed, including many children — the only thing the plotters worried about was whether too many Catholics would be taken out (which was what caught them up, since they sent a letter to warn the Catholic Lord Monteagle not to attend Parliament on that day, who then told the authorities). By modern standards they were depraved terrorists, and just to put the cherry on top, Fawkes wasn't even a core member of the conspiracy, but a mercenarynote of course, he was also Catholic, and sympathetic to the plotter's cause, but still... hired for his experience with gunpower.
Kick the Dog: Initially, it's made apparent the government makes people disappear for "crimes" such as protesting (e.g. Evey's parents), but it's later done again harder when Gordon is detained simply for mocking Sutler, and V says after they found a Quran in his house, they ordered him shot. So apparently being a Muslim or possessing articles of Islamic faith is a capital crime.
In-Universe the Fingerman who shot the little girl is clearly agreed upon as this by the surrounding crowd, it ends up being the last straw that starts the revolution.
Kill the Poor: Along with other "undesirables", the homeless are rounded up and placed in death camps.
The Kindnapper: V kidnaps Evey twice, both times motivated by some form of benevolent intentions. The first time, he saves her after she is knocked out helping him escape from the news station. The second time, he is testing her — albeit in a horrible way — to see if she is worthy of being his successor.
Kingpin in His Gym: There's one scene in which V has some fun fencing with a suit of armour. As he exists somewhere in the fuzzy border between Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain, he's probably villain enough to count.
Latex Perfection: On close inspection in daylight, V's William Rookwood mask is pretty easily seen to be plastic. However, in the dark, partially covered by glasses, a fake beard, and a hat, it's enough to fool Mr. Finch.
Liberty Over Prosperity: One of V's points during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to all England (and/or humanity in general) is that they have accepted trading their freedoms in exchange for security. He does mention that he doesn't mean that they should go back to the Stone Age, but that they need to stop stagnating.
No Endor Holocaust: At the climax of the movie the Houses of Parliament are destroyed by a massive bomb on a tube train beneath them. An explosion of such size would devastate a wide area around it, but miraculously the thousands of be-masked V supporters watching the show from only a few metres away are completely unharmed, rather than being shredded by flying debris. Also, the likelihood of the government falling overnight is seen as very positive with no drawbacks.
No Name Given: V. He states: "I do not have a name. You can call me V." Even Delia Surridge doesn't know his real name, calling him just "the subject" or "the man from room five", and recalls that during her experiments, "The subject stated he could no longer remember his name, or where he was from."
Not Afraid of You Anymore: The Fingermen have absolute authority to detain, rape, and kill. People are terrified of them. After V's speech, building tensions, and one stupid Fingerman gunning down a little girl with glasses who was wearing a V mask and vandalized a Norsefire poster, leads to the people of that neighborhood surrounding that man and killing him.
Subverted in one scene, where it briefly looks like they're actually going to reveal V's identity. Finch sets up a meeting with a mysterious informant named William Rockwood, who turns out to be played by an unmasked Hugo Weaving. At first, we're led to believe that V has finally been unmasked...but then "William Rockwood" turns out to be a pseudonym, and the face that looks like Hugo Weaving turns out to be another of V's masks.
Played straight with V and Sutler's deaths. In the book, V was killed by Finch, and Sutler ("Susan" in the book) was killed by Rosemary Almond, the disgruntled widow of the first head of The Finger. In the movie, V and Sutler are both killed by Creedy's troops.
Oh, Crap: The security guard's reaction to seeing V's rather incendiary undershirt.
The General in charge of defending Parliament at the end when he sees just how many V's are showing up.
"Jesus bloody Christ"
The look on every one of Creedy's men when V's cutting his way through them.
Older Than They Look: A rough estimate of V's age puts him at anywhere from 30s to 60s. However, due to the experiments conducted on him, V can still move like an Olympic athlete.
Orange/Blue Contrast: A rare non-advertising, non-simultaneous example for cinema, Evey's "awakening" takes place in a very blue rain storm and it is interspersed with images V's "awakening", which took place in a raging inferno.
Pair the Spares: Implied via Freeze-Frame Bonus. During Finch's monologue about everything being connected, there's a shot of him pouring a glass of wine in his living room with Evey sitting on his couch.
Pay Evil unto Evil: V does this to Prothero, Lilliman and Creedy. While his torture is undoubtedly cruel, their deaths are nothing short of a relief. Delia Surridge subverts this, because she makes a sincere apology and V responds by giving her a quick, painless death instead.
Pet the Dog: Unlike his other targets, V doesn't violently kill Delia Surridge, but instead chooses to inject her with a lethal poison while she sleeps, because she was the only one to express genuine remorse for her actions. He even seems sorry that he had to do so.
Promoted to Love Interest: Inverted with Gordon. He and Evey were explicitly attracted to each other in the book (Evey even fantasizes about having sex with him at one point). In the movie, he's gay.
Punch Clock Villain: Eric Finch qualifies, at least at the start. Finch says he's been a party member for twenty-seven years, but it's probably not unfair to assume that joining Norsefire was the only way to have anything resembling a career in law enforcement, and it's certainly clear that Finch thinks of himself as a copper first and foremost.
Reasonable Authority Figure: The General whose men are guarding Parliament see hundreds if not thousands of unarmed Vs walking at them. His orders were to fire and his men were asking for confirmation. After no response from Sutler or Creedy, he orders his men to stand down.
The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The revolution against the government is seen as completely positive. They kinda handwaved the fact that depending on your position a "revolutionist" is either a "freedom fighter" or a "terrorist", and there can be no argument whatsoever against the fact that Norsefire is a corrupt and oppressive regime that is guilty of terrible crimes against humanity. But there's also no argument that the comic's deliberately ambiguous morality is replaced in the movie with a much more black-and-white version of the conflict.
V: We are oft to blame in this / 'Tis too much proved, that with devotion's visage / And pious action we do sugar o'er / The devil himself.
Sociopathic Hero: V. Literally. Finch describes him as being a clinical psychopath.
Speak of the Devil: Lewis Prothero is listening to a recording in which he talks about V (specifically about how he wishes he could fight him man to man) only for a Mirror Scare to reveal V standing there. Just for clarification, there is nothing magical in this case, and it is just a coincidence (or possibly the ever-theatrical V was waiting for the perfect moment,) but the look on the man's face suggests it might as well have been this trope.
Sub Text: During Finch's monologue about everything being connected, there is a brief shot of future-Evey with her hair grown back, next to a vase of Scarlet Carsons. The mirror on the wall shows a reflection of a relaxed-looking Finch drinking some wine.
Too Dumb to Live: So you live in a totalitarian society, where your Chancellor is a bigot, a zealot, and a complete monster. People disappear for so much as having an opinion. The media is completely controlled and censored by law, your stories manufactured; in short, your government can kill you whenever he sees fit. Knowing all this, you see fit to mock your Chancellor on live television and you think the worst that will happen is you will be fined, and forced to write a letter of apology?
Oh, and you're also a closeted homosexual, which will get you on the wrong side of a firing squad. Ooh ooh, and you have a collection of illegal artifacts including a copy of the Quran, which ensures that when the police do in fact kick your door in, you will be properly executed without even being interrogated.
Undercrank: Gordon uses this in his comedy show when he throws out the approved script, right down to playing "Yakety Sax".
The Un-Reveal: The identity of V is now simply "V". He removes his mask once, but his face remains unseen by the audience.
Viewers Are Morons: There are things that were alluded to in the book that the movie feels the need to state outright. For example, in the book, when V is discussing "Vi veri veniversum vivus vici," he just says that the quote is from Dr. John Faust and that "he made a deal, too." In the movie, on the other hand, V says it's from Faust and Evey expositions, "That's about trying to cheat the devil, isn't it?"
The movie also changes Adam Susan's name to Adam Sutler; apparently it was assumed that the audience was to stupid to be able to make the Hitler connection otherwise.
Viking Funeral: V gets a modern take on one-laid to rest on the train that delivers his bomb to Parliament.
Villain Ball: As V pushed the city more towards chaos and anarchy by giving everyone masks and cloaks like his Finch realizes the "powder keg" will be blown by someone in the government doing something stupid. As he says this, we see a Fingerman shoot the little girl with glasses, who was wearing V's mask, for putting V's mark over a Norsefire poster.
Villainous Breakdown: Creedy suffers a nasty one after V rips his henchmen to shreds and is still strong enough to send Creedy to hell before expiring.
We All Live in America: Mostly averted (like V saying "lift" instead of "elevator") but not always — several uses of "cop" which is generally an Americanism (Brits prefer "copper"), Finch pronouncing lever as leh-ver instead of lee-ver. Additionally, Lewis Prothero was based more on American television pundits (like Bill O'Reilly ) rather than anything off British TV. The colors of the national postal carrier are based on USPS rather than Royal Mail. In the freight yard a bell is heard from a moving locomotive, not a UK requirement.
Wham Episode: It's implied that the key formative event in the Man in Room Five's transformation into V isn't the experiments upon him, or the cruel and indifferent treatment he received from the prison camp's staff. It's the note from Valerie, which he delivers to Evey exactly as he received it himself. It has a similar effect upon her.
What the Hell Are You?: Creedy's reaction after V survives a hailstorm of bullets and proceeds to kill every last one of the men shooting at him.
Subverted however, in that while the initial salvo may not have stopped him, V is mortally wounded.
What the Hell, Hero?: Evey's initial reaction to V's torture of her and when he kills the Bishop. She forgives him for both times, though.
Why Won't You Die?: Because beneath his mask is more than flesh, beneath his mask there is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof. Also: an armor breast plate. Which is not entirely bulletproof, but does stop V from dying where he stands, instead allowing him to slowly bleed out as he stumbles his way back to his lair. What, you thought they'd pull the Only a Flesh Wound card?
You Are Number Six: Played straight. The camp dehumanized V to the point where nobody knew him as anything but the Man in Room Five, so he took it as his new identity.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In turning Creedy into The Starscream who actually acts, V tells him that when V does blow up Parliament, Sutler's only viable option to retaining his power is to offer the masses someone to blame. V points out that would be Creedy. Being a smart man, as V notes he is, Creedy sees that Sutler would ensure his last "useful" act would be to keep Sutler in charge.