Based on the graphic comic book novel by Alan Moore (who disowned the movie), "V For Vendetta" skirts controversy by having the Batman-like hero enact his vengeance in a futuristic totalitarian society, which happens to be Britain of 2020. There, the government has created and cured a lethal virus, an action catapulting dictator Sulter (John Hurt, ironically, victim Winston Smith in the 1984 film version of“1984") to a position of all-encompassing power.
Borrowing from "The Phantom of the Opera," the story has the terrorist known only as V (Hugo Weaving) cover his deformed face with a mask (in this case, it's of Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 tried to blow up Parliament), live in a subterranean lair and long for a beautiful young girl (here, she's Evey Hammond, played by Natalie Portman). V saves Evey from a police rape attack when she is found on the streets after 11 p.m. curfew. She then joins him for an evening of terrorism: They watch the Old Bailey courthouse explode, complete with skyrockets and the "1812 Overture."
Although Sulter and his henchmen attempt to "spin" the terrorist act into something innocuous, V takes control of a TV network, where he broadcasts himself taking responsibility for the Old Bailey blowout and announcing more such acts to come, particularly the destruction of Parliament on the next November 5 Guy Fawkes Day in 12 months. He rallies the citizenry to stand behind him and expel Sutler's dictatorship. Meanwhile, Evey is caught and subjected to torture. During her solitary confinement, she discovers handwritten letters from a prior prisoner, who was condemned for her lesbianism. The film dwells on this interlude, making a George Orwellian point that evil societies outlaw love. We then find out the Evey's dungeon episode is, in fact, a red herring. After her ordeal, she is back in the arms of V, more fortified than ever for a life of insurgency.
The Wachowski brothers ("The Matrix" series), who co-produced, wrote the screenplay, which Moore called, "Rubbish."That criticism may be a bit extreme, but "V For Vendetta" is a message movie with thinly veiled references to the current state of the world (we hear of the "former United States," which was economically destroyed by an unending war). As V, Weaving uses his sonorous Shakespearean voice to do a lot of preaching in between episodes of Jack-the-Ripper violence in "Matrix" slow motion (V is big on blades).
Politically incorrect? I'd say so.
Will a message movie bring box office results? While "V for Vendetta" opened at a number one, it was knocked off that pedestal in week two.
Go see it if you're looking for a justification for terrorism, Hollywood-style. After all, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.
But, what would Nathan Hale think of all this? Very little, I suspect.