Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

How many big-budget spectacles get more interesting the longer they run? The Wachowski brothers' talky, overly cerebral approach to action filmmaking has its fans and detractors, who will love and loathe this film in predictable proportions, but here they put their big brains behind a story that's actually about something other than itself. Watching V's masterful plan unfold is a pleasure if you're not familiar with the source, and the spirited allusions to Guy Fawkes and political theory grant a deft touch to what have could have been a heavy film. Because its terrorist hero is never wrong, it would not seem to want audiences to think about its subject, but I think it does: It treats V with complete moral rightness because our society treats terrorists with complete moral wrongness, the only way to challenge our preconceived notions about the certainty of our values. Would we still root for V if the film were the same but took place in America? If the villain were named President Bush and looked just like him? Suddenly the patriots and the principled would be divided, exposing our hypocrises; liberals who claim to love America would root for her corrupt government's overthrow, and conservatives who claim to despise moral relativity would shift allegiance to a character depending on whose government he was blowing up. This is a lot to think about for those viewers who just want some pretty explosions, but the movie will satisfy that demographic just as well as it flatters our inner poli-sci major.

I'd be inclined to like it better if it didn't have a number of technical irritations, chiefly the poor sound editing by Ben Barker (or maybe just the speaker system at the theater where I saw it). Several critical pieces of dialogue, including a threat whispered from V to an enemy, were virtually inaudible underneath Dario Marianelli's score and the ambient sound. But the film is more for the eyes than the ears anyway, with the art direction standing tall on the shoulders of previous gothic-deco comic adaptations before it, and excellent final work from the late cinematographer Adrian Biddle. I loved the visual boldness of the film that extended even to its gorgeous poster. It's a striking, challenging film for anyone who likes their action films brainy.

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