Friday, August 03, 2007

Breakdown - V for Vendetta

Hey guys,

I'm proud to share this guest movie breakdown from our good friend,
Len Massaar. In his notes, he wrote, "This film was not a favorite of mine but I didn't quite understand why that was so... hence the breakdown, in an attempt to get to grips with it. lol" Yet, he did a great job in the classic Miriam Paschal style of movie breakdowns.

Thanks so much, Len.



1. 1:30 - An unseen female V.O. narrates the story of Guy Fawkes, a man we see in 1605 trying to blow up the English Houses of Parliament. He is captured and executed, having failed to achieve his goal. The story we are about to witness is of a similar man (she says); a man she will never forget. Ends: 0:02:10

2. 2:05 - In two separate dwellings, a man in a mask and an attractive woman are getting ready for the evening. While dressing, the woman listens to a blowhard on tv - Lewis Prothero - pontificating the current political groupthink... behind him, the symbolic clock face of Big Ben, no-doubt representing the Houses of Parliament in Westminster (aka the government). As the rant continues, the attractive woman switches-off the tv... she has had enough. Meanwhile in the other home, the masked man disguises his weapons. They both have plans to go out; in fact, the woman is late for something. Ends: 0:04:15

3. 4:50 - Outside it is evening and a streetwide Public Address System warns everyone of a curfew. The attractive woman - fearful of arrest - ducks into an alley to avoid someone up ahead. In so doing, she collides straight into a threatening stranger and his equally creepy buddy. The subtext here is clearly one of sexual violence. When she attempts to defend herself, the head creep brandishes an official-looking shield and hides behind the power of the law (the last refuge of scoundrels). They are so-called Fingermen. As they prepare to pounce on the woman, the hero - our man in the mask - calmly appears to the rescue. The creeps attack him and the masked man more than capably defends himself, quickly incapacitating them all.

He introduces himself to the woman as "V", a letter annoyingly underscored by his adopting dozens of phonetic "V" alliterations in his monologue... this serves to define character (he is smart, articulate, capable etc) and to bury exposition. "V" is the protag (Hugo Weaving) and his goal it to topple the government.

She reveals herself to be Evey (Natalie Portman) and from now on she represents the audience's POV. She is invited to attend a rooftop concert and reluctantly accepts. Ends: 0:09:05

4. 1:55 - The night view is of the London skyline and on cue after midnight (it now officially being Nov 5, Guy Fawkes day), "V" reveals a conductor's baton and mimics conducting an orchestra. Evey thinks he is insane. However, we soon hear the thunderous "1812 Overture" by Tchaikovsky playing loudly and it is clear that "V" is both playful and smart enough to have hacked into the government's Public Address System. The population - now suitably awakened - are all witness to the symbolic destruction of the Old Bailey central criminal court. Ends: 0:11:00

5. 2:05 - We now see who is in charge of the country, a larger-than-life figurative Big Brother. Addressing representatives of his administration via a large screen, Fascist dictator Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt) wants a progress report from various branches of his government. They nonchalantly discuss the cover up of our protag's destructive activities, lest the government admit to terrorism and dissent being active. The police are represented by Finch (Stephen Rea) who isn't committed to the Chancellor's dictates. Ends: 0:13:05

6. 1:00 - The state television station is given orders to broadcast a news item explaining the destruction of the Old Bailey as a premature demolition. Nobody believes the public will buy this story. Evey is shown to be working there as a sort of personal assistant. Ends: 14:05

7. 0:20 - Finch gets a lead on Evey and the police spring into action. Ends: 14:25

8. 0:30 - Evey tends to Gordon Deitrich (Stephen Fry) at the tv station. Apparently he's a mild-mannered celebrity and it turns out the Evey had a date with him which she did not keep because of the altercation with the Fingermen. Ends: 14:55

9. 0:20 - Finch and the other cops break into Evey's apartment. They discover her employer is the tv station BTN. Ends: 15:15

10. 0:50 - A mysterious set of boxes are delivered to BTN and Evey witnesses their contents - the same masks worn by "V" and this portends something ominous to her. Ends: 16:05

11. 0:20 - Finch and the other cops descend on BTN and aim to arrest Evey. Ends: 16:25

12. 1:54 Series of shots

- 0:05 Evey prepares to flee the tv station
- 0:20 "V" arrives at BTN with bombs strapped to his chest
- 0:04 Finch & the other cops finally arrive outside BTN
- 0:09 "V" has secured himself a studio with hostages
- 0:07 Evey senses something is up and calls for the elevator
- 0:01 "V" sets off the BTN building's fire alarms
- 0:01 Evey hears the alarm and can't now use the DOWN elevators
- 0:04 Finch and other cops cannot now use the UP elevators
- 0:02 "V" sabotages the studio doors so they won't easily open
- 0:17 The BTN building employees begin to evacuate
- 0:04 Staff are perplexed at being unable to enter "V"s studio
- 0:06 Finch & other cops are hindered by evacuating employees
- 0:34 Finch spots Evey and she flees/hides

Ends: 18:19

13. 0:16 Nationwide tv coverage is disrupted. Ends: 18:35

14. 3:20 - "V" uses an emergency system to broadcast a previously taped msg throughout the country. In it he he addresses his grievances with the government and promises a revolution on this day NEXT year. Ends: 21:55

15. 1:10 - Just as "V"s message concludes, the police and/or staff at BTN break through the studio in which "V" and the hostages are cornered. However, inside everyone is now wearing masks and other clothing identical to that worn by "V". This pays-off the previously setup delivery of mysterious boxes. Improvised filming of the hostage rescue captures the accidental shooting of a hostage. Ends: 23:05

16. 1:55 Series of shots

- 0:30 "V" has left an explosive device in the control center
- 0:38 "V" makes his escape by masquerading as a hostage
- 0:10 "V"s bomb is disarmed safely
- 0:37 Evey rescues "V" from arrest by attacking a cop but is knocked unconscious in the process
Ends: 25:00

17. 0:50 - Using the improvised filmed footage of the hostage rescue, the government falsely issues a televised Special Emergency Report of the death of the terrorist "V". Ends: 25:50

18. 0:25 - Finch & the other cop watch surveillance of Evey's involvement in coming to "V"s aid. Ends: 26:15

19. 3:30 - Evey wakes up in "V"s home. She is told she will stay there for a year until his plan comes to fruition. Ends: 29:45

20. 0:31 - Finch & the other cop go over Evey's family history of revolutionary activities. Ends: 30:06

21. 2:42 - "V" cooks Evey a simple but decadent breakfast. He relays to her his revolutionary ideas (e.g. People should not be afraid of the government). Ends: 32:48

22. 1:56 - The voice of London, Lewis Prothero, the blowhard on tv we saw right at the start gets his cummupance from "V" who murders him at BTN. "V" calls him Commander and there's clearly some personal history between the two. Ends: 34:44

23. 1:50 - Finch investigates Prothero's murder. Evey is implicated because it was her employee pass used to gain access to Prothero's quarters. The government decide to hush up the murder and instead pass it off as a natural death. Ends: 35:34

24. 1:02 - "V" practices sword fighting. Evey watches him. They watch an old B/W swashbuckler movie together. Ends: 36:36

25. 0:32 - Finch and the other cop find some sordid history on Prothero. Ends: 37:08

26. 1:46 - "V" and Evey are watching tv when the announcement is made about Prothero's death. "V" admits to murdering him and Evey is shocked. Ends: 38:54

27. 1:41 - Finch's research shows Prothero's involvement with the Larkhill Detention facility. Ends: 40:35

28. 2:36 - Every tells "V" the story of her family. Ends: 43:11

29. 0:37 - Finch decides to get harcopies of the Larkhill facility's tax records. Ends: 43:48

30. 0:40 - "V" asks for Evey's help with a theatrical skill. Ends: 44:28

31. 0:25 - Finch finds that an ordained Bishop was the highest-paid employee at the Detention facility. Ends: 44:53

32. 3:05 - Every dresses-up as a young girl to gain access to the lecherous Bishop's sleeping quarters. She reveals to him that she set him up and that "V" is on his way there to murder him. The Bishop thinks this is a game. "V" does indeed arrive and Evey flees from "V"s captivity. Ends: 47:58

33. 1:39 - Finch investigates the Bishop's murder but is told to back off the Larkhill investigation by the menacing Creedy who threatens him. Ends: 49:37

34. 2:34 - Evey turns up unexpectedly on Gordon Deitrich's doorstep. He gladly gives her sanctuary from the authorities, revealing he is gay, anti-government and hoards banned artifacts in his home. Ends: 52:11

35. 0:56 - Finch attends the Bishop's autopsy. The Coroner rules it as death by poison. Finch asks the Coroner to help identifying an extinct fresh rose left at the crime scene. Ends: 53:07

36. 0:32 - The cops spot a pattern in "V"s killings... the victims were all once officials of Larkhill. There is only one ex-official unaccounted for but their whereabouts is unknown. Ends: 53:39

37. 0:12 - The Coroner removes something from what looks to be a home safe. Ends: 53:51

38. 0:15 - The cops are attempting to trace the missing ex-official when they discover it to be the Coroner. Ends: 54:06

39. 2:32 - "V" makes his stealthy visit to the Coroner. She has been expecting him and he's there to kill her. The cops are on their way but by the time they arrive, it is too late. The Coroner is dead and she now has her very own rose. Ends: 56:38

40. 0:59 - Alone, Finch reports to Chancellor Sutler and relays the events leading up to the death of the Coroner. Finch reveals that the Coroner left a written journal, explaining what happened at Larkhill. Sutler orders him to keep all details to himself as it concerns National security. Ends: 57:37

41. 2:40 - We hear the female V.O. of the Coroner reading from her journal. We see the Aushzwitz-like nature of the Larkhill Detention centre and in particular the story of the prisoner in Room V. Ends: 1:00:17

42. 1:16 - Gordon cooks Evey some breakfast; she is shocked to see that what he prepares is identical to what "V" prepared for her at his home. Ends: 1:01:33

43. 2:31 - Finch studies news articles of the infamous virus outbreaks that gave rise to the current government's rise to power. We learn that the outbreak caused the deaths of over 100,000 citizens... Finch suspects the government may have had some involvement in the outbreaks known as St. Mary's and Three Waters. Ends: 1:04:04

44. 0:39 - The government is concerned about the apparent panic of the general population towards acts of terrorism. Ends: 1:04:43

45. 2:57 - Possibly inspired by Evey's plight and/or courage, together with frustration over his own bouts with the censor at the tv station, Gordon decides to air an episode of his talk show which has not been pre-approved. Nor would it be, as we witness his vicious lampooning of the Chancellor. Evey is horrified but Gordon doesn't believe he'll get more than a fine at best from the authorities. Ends: 1:07:40

46. 1:58 - Government authorities break-in to Gordon's home. Evey hides under the bed and witnesses Gordon's violent arrest, mirroring precisely what she saw the night her parents were arrested. She makes her escape and is almost successful when she herself is captured. Ends: 1:09:38

47. 1:01 - Evey is interrogated. Ends: 1:10:39

48. 1:36 - Montage of Evey being "processed" in detention; hair shaved off completely, showered etc. Ends: 1:12:15

49. 2:10 - We don't know how long she has now been there. Alone in her cell, Evey finds a concealed note from the previous occupant. We hear the female V.O. of that prisoner tell her own story of how she came to be arrested (she was gay) and incarcerated. Ends: 1:14:25

50. 0:35 - Evey is water tortured to reveal facts about the terrorist known as "V". Evey reveals nothing. Ends: 1:15:00

51. 1:11 Evey is back in her cell and continues to read the previous occupant's secret notes. Again we hear the female V.O. of that prisoner relay her continuing story while we see it played out. Ends: 1:16:11

52. 0:21 - Evey continues to be tortured for information about "V"; she reveals nothing because she knows nothing. Ends: 1:16:32

53. 2:14 Evey is back in her cell and continues to read the previous occupant's secret notes. Again we hear the female V.O. of that prisoner relay her continuing story while we see it played out. Ends: 1:18:46

54. 2:21 - Evey is questioned for what she's told is the final time. Unless she talks she will be shot. She refuses to reveal anything and the guard is ordered to take her out and have her shot. Ends: 1:21:07

55. 4:53 - Inexplicably, Evey is told she is "free". In a daze, she leaves her cell and into "V"s home. Her entire incarceration was engineered by "V" and her cell was somewhere in his house. Evey is very upset but makes her way outside into the cleansing power of the falling rain (not unlike "V"s baptism by fire). Ends: 1:26:00

56. 3:15 - Evey is leaving "V". He would like to see her again before the upcoming Nov 5 and she promises to do so. Once she has left, "V" is upset at what he found himself forced to do to her. Ends: 1:29:15

57. 1:15 - The Chancellor is very upset... the promised Nov 5 date looms closer and Creedy and the others are no closer to capturing "V". Chief Inspector Finch speculates an attack on Parliament could come from the underground, but The Chancellor ridicules this notion. The Chancellor issues orders to remind the public why they need their (this) government. Ends: 1:30:30

58. 0:40 - Tv news is broadcast detailing nothing but bad news. War around the world, water shortages at home, avian flu etc. The general public react contemptuously. Ends: 1:31:10

59. 0:53 - Finch gets a lead on a man named Rockwood, a contact with some possible intel on Larkhill. Ends: 1:32:03

60. 4:12 - Finch and his partner meet the secretive Rockwood at a virus memorial site. Rockwood tells the cops the story of Sutler, Creedy etc and the nature of the virus which stemmed from the blood of the Larkhill victims. Prothero's pharmaceutical company helped develop the cure and made them all wealthy. Rockwood asks Finch & the other cops to keep Creedy under surveillance and Rockwood will reveal more. Ends: 1:36:15

61. 1:41 - Creedy is propositioned by "V", citing The Chancellor's ultimate lack of trust in him. Surely Creedy knows he's being monitored? "V" posits that after the destruction of Parliament, Sutler will sacrifice Creedy in an effort to deflect blame. "V" proposes to surrender to Creedy in exchange for Sutler. If/when Creedy accepts this proposition, he is to mark the front door of his home with a chalk "X". Ends: 1:37:56

62. 0:29 - Every is in her home and watches the same swashbuckler movie she enjoyed with "V". Ends: 1:38:25

63. 0:57 - Finch comes to find that the man known as Rockwood has been dead for some time. He's been duped and likely it was "V" masquerading as Rockwood to spoonfeed Finch with planted information. Ends: 1:39:22

64. 0:23 - Evey sees a child graffiti a wall with "V"s insignia. Ends: 1:39:45

65. 0:27 - Sutler is angry at Creedy for his continuing lack of results in finding "V". Ends: 1:40:11

66. 1:09 - "V" assembles an unseen pattern of dominoes. Hundreds of thousands of unsolicited parcels containing "V"s signature mask and costume are delivered to countless homes. Chaos begins in the country. Creedy makes his chalk cross on his door. Ends: 1:41:20

67. 2:52 - Finch tells us that he can't help feeling that everything that has happened so far is somehow related. A chain of events that went back to the time before Larkhill... a perfect pattern, laid out. We see "V" has assembled his dominos in a pattern. Finch believes that with so much chaos, someone will do something stupid. We see a fingerman murder a child wearing "V"s mask in the public street... the public turns on the fingerman in a symbolic sign of disobedience. "V" flicks the first domino in his pattern and we see the cascading pattern tumble before him - the pattern of his name "V". Ends: 1:44:12

68. 0:29 - Finch is alone at home. Tonight is "V"s big night, he asks... is everyone ready? Ends: 1:44:41

69. 4:02 - "V" is at home and gets a visit from Evey; they dance. Sutler is in a complete panic. "V" has something for Evey. Ends: 1:48:43

70. 0:39 - The cops talk about how heavily fortified Parliament is today. Ends: 1:49:22

71. 2:34 - "V" shows Evey the underground train he's been preparing for the last ten years. She begs him to not go ahead with his plan. Ends: 1:51:56

72. 1:41 - Sutler makes a speech that is broadcast nationwide. The homes are empty, as are the pubs; seems no one is listening to their Chancellor. "V" surrenders to Creedy as promised. Ends: 1:53:37

73. 4:07 - "V" gets to see the captured Chancellor; Creedy assasinates him. "V" is defiant and once challenged, kills Creedy and all his men. However, "V" is wounded. Ends: 1:57:44

74. 1:43 - Evey waits patiently underground by the explosives train. A wounded "V" returns. He has planned this day for twenty years, he says... he then dies in Evey's arms. Ends: 1:59:27

75. 2:55 - Crowds descend on Parliament... they're all dressed as "V". The armed troops don't know how to respond; requests for instructions are not returned. Finch finds Evey who has loaded "V" onto the explosives train and is about to let the train travel on its own... he wants to stop her but her conviction disarms him. Ends: 2:02:22

76. 2:09 - Music blares out over the Public Address system. Parliament explodes while everybody in the crowd watches (including characters we knew had died previously). The crowd represents all of us, past & present. And who was "V"? He was all of us too. The fireworks make a majestic "V" pattern. Ends: 2:04:31



This film was not a favorite of mine but I didn't quite understand why that was so... hence the breakdown, in an attempt to get to grips with it. lol

The Wachowski Brothers ("The Matrix") had already completed their first draft of this SP back in the mid-1990's. The adaptation was from the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore ("The Extraordinary League of Gentlemen") about life in Britain in the future 2020. However, subsequent rewrites were necessary to water-down Moore's original content because it proved too ambitious to adapt as-is.

I liked that the story dared to ask the questions and it isn't very often that you're made to think very much about a movie's concepts & themes. However, as topical as some of these might be in today's political climate, what we have here with this film is ultimately something that didn't hit the cinematic mark.

Any scene over two minutes was exposition heavy. Talk talk talk; saying not showing. A good example is scene 70 where the cops talk about how heavily fortified Parliament was today... clearly we are going to have to see it eventually - and they do - but it seems as though they wanted to withhold that imagery from us until later.

Some of the imagery was good. The story was put together by Moore at the time of the conservative Thatcher government in the 1980s as such it is a very British story IMO. Perhaps I'm imagining things, but an example of this would be the symbol of the government (prominent in the fingerman shield scene# 3 and again alongside the Chancellor's image scene# 5... this is clearly St. George's Cross (the English flag) but with a black background instead of white.

It's funny but what affected some people in seeing this film was the explosion of Parliament. I think the entire point of the film was that these are merely buildings and aren't that important. As if proof were needed, the Palace of Westminster was built around 1890 (what was there before perished in an 1834 fire). Big Ben wasn't built until around 1858. So it's quaint, but not that old. The Old Bailey - which perhaps isn't even on the tourist route and nobody remembers... that was built in 1539. Except the great fire of London in 1666 pretty much destroyed the original Old Bailey. What's there today is pretty much from 1834. lol


Anonymous said...

As a big fan of the book, and not such a fan of the Matrix movies, I was pleasantly surprised with the V for Vendetta movie. Although, I can't help feeling that the Matrix Brothers had a pretty easy gig in coming up with the script:

STEP 1: Cut out each individual panel from the graphic novel,

STEP 2: Throw away all the boring bits,

STEP 3: Voila!

Alan Moore's dialogue is so good it can be lifted straight off the page, (although his V themed literation seems to be a Wachowski invention.)

My problem with the film (apart from Portman's "dodgy" accent) is the actual look of the film. It has a black and red visual theme throughout which for me doesn't work; it creates a futuristic feel yes, but this contrasts with the everyday scenes of Britain which almost look like they are set in the past (the scruffy pubs and dowdy living rooms etc.)

It's one of those films that makes Britain and the British look really ugly. Hollywood casting companies probably put looks at the top of the list when recruiting supporting actors; whereas British ones seem to have a list of British stage actors currently "resting" and happy to play the typical sneering English villain in another Hollywood movie. Hence a succesion of balding, blotchy faced, crooked toothed Brit actors shouting "Bollocks!" at everything that moves. And the irony is that it's Hugo Weaving who's wearing a mask!

And while I'm ranting...what the hell IS an "Eggy in the blanket"?!


Mim said...

Waste of good bread, if you ask me. My mother always made us a good old mixed grill on Sunday mornings.

My take on V for Vendetta is that it's a thinly disguised commentary on the current presidential administration in America. It may be British on the face, but it was authored by Americans.

It's not a bad idea to use film as a way to make a statement, but the story should always be first and foremost. I think at some points in V for Vendetta the film-makers forced the story to fit the political point they were trying to make.

Good job, Len! It's a whole lot different doing one of these than reading them, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Mixed grill...Mmmmmm...

I wonder if Mystery Man wears a mask. He must at least wear a cloak.


crossword said...

Eggy in the basket. LOL

Probably an attempt to zing the story up for representing the future... trouble is though that 2020 isn't that far off.

PS. Thanks Mim - yes, it is a lot tougher... I did have notes but had to watch it again to make sure I wasn't going to make false statements.

Mickey Lee said...

Hmm, guess I'm the only one who out-and-out loved the movie.

thanks for the breakdown, Len!

crossword said...

Hey Mickey Lee. Pleasure. :)

PS. I don't think there's anything wrong with liking this film per se. It just that it could've been done better. For example the recapitulation scene (my #67) is almost like they couldn't trust the audience to "get it".

But it did gross $123M+ so quite a few others liked it too. :)

Mystery Man said...

Something bothered me about that film, and for a while, I couldn't put my finger on it. Now I think it was the mask, oddly enough. That kinda bugged me. I would've liked to have at least seen his eyes or something.


Anonymous said...

But remember, the doctor says that he did not have eyes ... Scary!!!!