When this movie came out, the novel was already a cult classic but few knew about it. The comic was set in the 90s. The movie chose to smartly create an alternate universe set in the future, that way they didn’t have to take flack for destroying the parliament building. Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from the Matrix) has such a mastery with his diction it’s insane the way he delivers each dialogue. Not once do you see his face in the movie, yet you see all sorts of expression on that pale smiling Fawkesian mask. Natalie Portman has looked incredibly pretty in this film and pairs very well with V as Evey. The Wachowskis have done a phenomenal work in adapting a screenplay out of the comics, in many ways outdoing the original. This is V For Vendetta Explained.
I’m going to take you through the events of the movie in chronological order as that makes things a lot more clear and gives a good perspective of things as well. This does make it filled with spoilers and kills the obvious theatrics. I’ll try and fill in some details from the comic as we go along. I’ve marked the details of the comic in
Plot Explanation in Chronological Order
The story is set in a future (2030s) where societies have crumbled due to wars and where governments have extreme control on the lives of their people. There is a mention of wars in the US spreading to England, and the United States being dissolved. It’s referred to as the former United States.
Many years ago, England sees the Norsefire party come to power lead by the Undersecretary Adam Sutler. England sees a terrible biochemical attack of a specific strand of virus. The attack of the virus happens in an underground station called Three Waters and a school called St Mary’s Primary School. Thousands of adults and kids are killed. The event is declared as a terrorist attack conducted by religious extremists. Political resistance, immigrants, muslims, homosexuals, basically any group that the Norsefire party saw as unwanted were arrested and taken to concentration camps. The crux of the story (which comes as a twist towards the end) is that the Norsefire party is who is responsible for the virus attack. In the comic there is a nuclear war which destroys many countries and the Norsefire uses their skills and the opportunities to get to power, no virus event.
Larkhill Detention Centre
Larkhill is governed by Commander Lewis Prothero. Dr. Diana Stanton is the head physician. Lilliman was the priest stationed at the centre to ensure everyone is treated alright, he is paid a very high salary to ensure he doesn’t interfere with what happens at the centre. The Detention Centre was used to experiment on people who were arrested because they were “unwanted”. Dr.Stanton works on a strain of virus and uses the prisoners for trials. Two important people at the centre are Valerie and V. Valerie, an actress, is arrested because she is a lesbian and there is no clarity on V’s name or why he was arrested. Valerie is in room IV and V gets his name because he is in room V. Both of them are being used for human trials. In this period, Valerie writes her autobiography on toilet paper and gives it to the person in the next room through a small crack in the wall. The person in the next room (room no. V) is V who reads her autobiography while he too is getting tested on. The difference is that Valerie dies from the testing and V naturally builds an immunity towards the virus. Dr.Stanton eventually grows a conscience and realizes she hates what she is doing to the test subjects and keeps a journal that details what happens at Larkhill. These tests slowly enhance V physically and mentally. Finally one day he creates an explosion, destroys the place and escapes. They do show V getting fully burnt as he escapes. In the comic, V is allowed to do gardening. While gardening, he grows Violet Carsons instead of Scarlet Carsons in the movie (which Ruth grows for Valerie). V sneaks in raw materials and preps his bomb. In the movie, there is no explanation as to how V causes the explosion.
All is not wasted. The Norsefire party uses the Larkhill’s research on the virus to create a bioweapon and infect their own population with it. Since the virus is manufactured, the cure is manufactured as well. After the St. Mary’s incident, Commander Lewis holds stake in a pharmaceutical company which supplies the cure medicine. This staging of an attack makes the general population grow scared of the “unwanted” people and helps Sutler grow as High Chancellor and have complete control on England. The cure further increased people’s trust on Sutler and helps him and his party of merry men (like Commander Lewis) get rich. There is no virus attack on the country in the comic, this is a smart story adaptation on the part of the Wachowskis.
In the St. Mary’s virus attack, there is a young boy who dies. This young boy is Evey’s brother. Her parents, as a result of losing their child, become political activists and participate in anti-government rallies. As a result, they are black bagged and taken away to prison where they are killed. Evey hides under her bed while she watches her parents being taken away. In the comic, Evey has no brother. Her mother dies from a disease, her father is arrested and killed.
Many years later, Commander Lewis has become the Voice of England (Voice of Fate in the comic). Lillman is now the bishop. Dr. Stanton is now a Coroner and has changed her name to Delia Surridge (in the comic there is no name change, she is always Delia). Sutler is High Chancellor and Creedy is his head of security who handles mass executions, black bagging and curfews. Creedy is the one who gives the idea of using the virus against their own population rather than on another country (no virus in the comic).
Evey grows up to be a runner for the British Television Network who works under Gordon Deitrich, a popular talk show host. On an evening when she’s returning home past curfew she’s attacked by a Fingermen (Creedy’s men in-charge of security). V makes his entry there and saves Evey. V now dresses in costume of a Guy Fawkes mask and long hair. This is the part where he opens with an incredible dialogue full of Vs.
V for Vendetta dialogue with all 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 valourous 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.
This dialogue is not there in the comic, Evey in the comic is poor so attempts to try out prostitution for money. She ends up attempting to see herself to Fingermen and so they assault her.
Old Bailey Destroyed
V takes Evey up to a rooftop to witness him destroying the Old Bailey, a criminal court building with fireworks and music. Next day, inspectors Finch and Dominic are called in to investigate the situation. The News channels hide facts and announce that the Old Baley was destroyed as part of a planned demolition. In the comic V destroys some parliament buildings here and destroys the Old Baley by himself on another day.
Television Studio Attack
V breaks into the television studio and runs an announcement to the world that he was responsible for the destruction of the Old Baley. He also says he plans on blowing up the parliament a year later and if everyone feels there is something wrong with this country, they should all join him to witness the blowing up of the parliament building. By this time the cops break into the studio and shoot the first person with the Guy Fawkes mask. They soon realize that everyone in the studio has masks on them, in the confusion, V assaults the cops and makes out. He is stopped at the lift by Dominic. Evey who is behind Dominic attacks him with mace but gets knocked out. V takes down Dominic. Not knowing what to do with the unconscious Evey, he takes her to his layer. The comic diverges quite a bit here Evey goes back with V right after the rooftop and the studio telecast happens much after. I liked the order in the movie adapted for the sake of time.
When Evey comes around, V very patiently explains to her that she will now need to stay with V for the year as if she’s allowed to leave they will torture her and trace the whereabouts of V and he can’t take that chance. Evey is pissed and hits the bed. When she wakes, V makes her breakfast. He explains what the act of blowing up the parliament could mean.
V uses Evey’s access card to get to Lewis Prothero’s place and kills him. The morning comes and Flinch observes a Scarlet Carson next to Prothero’s dead self. They trace the access to Evey and figure it has to be V’s job. As V and Evey sit to watch his favourite movie – The Count of Monte Cristo, the news shows the death of Prothero. Evey confirms from V that it was his doing. Evey wants to run away because all of this is getting too scary for her. To plot her escape she explains to V how she wants to live her life without fear and that she would like to help V with his mission. V uses Evey as his bait to get to Lilliman. Evey dresses up an an underaged girl meant for Lilliman’s entertainment. While Evey tries to explain to Lilliman that V was coming for him and she’s been a prisoner of V. Lilliman thinks Evey is trying to be kinky and is playing a game. Just then V enters and kills Lilliman. Evey escapes to Gordon Deitrich’s house to take refuge. These scenes are quite similar to the comic, just that Evey is not trying to escape, she doesn’t even realize Lilliman is going to die. Have a look:
Finch notices Larkhill
In Finch’s research, he starts uncovering information leading back to Larkhill. All he finds are missing or deleted or omitted records. He also starts to see resistance from the government as he seeks more information. Finch notices that the people who have died have all made money suddenly either through excessive salaries or by owning stock in the pharmaceutical company that saves them from the St. Mary’s virus. Finch meets the now Delia Surridge (Dr. Stanton) and gives her the Scarlet Carson. Delia mentions that the roses were thought to be extinct. Later that night Delia is visited by V. She knows who’s been killing the other people, she knows V has come to kill her. Delia explains how she hoped to achieve greatness and asks if it was wrong to hope. V patiently explains he’s wasn’t there for what she hoped to do, but rather what she actually did. He’s already injected her with lethal poison and ensures that she will not feel pain. Delia thanks him, apologizes and she dies. Finch figures that Delia was Dr.Stanton and she could be the next target but is too late to save her. Again a scene taken straight out of the comic.
Gordon takes it too far
Gordon turns out to be another person who’s in the possession of various illegal material like the quran. Evey spends the night there and she wakes to to Gordon making her the exact same breakfast as V. This is mere coincidence and Gordon jokes about how he’s actually V. He’s not. Later he shows Evey the evening broadcast of the talk show that he’s shot. Gordon explains how he’s ignored the censor board and bypassed them to write up a completely different show for the evening. The show has a man dressed as Sutler as the TV show guest and Gordon interviews him. Gordon explains how Sutler has a glass of warm milk every night. We also see a man dressed as V running loose in the sets. The man’s mask is taken off to reveal another Sutler. The show ends by both Sutlers getting shot and killed. Right after this they show a guy breaking his glass of milk after watching the TV show – that’s the real Sutler who is seriously pissed!
Evey is super worried and Gordon explains to her that he’ll be fine. At most he would need to make a public apology and attend some boring fundraisers. In the middle of the night Gordon runs to Eveys room and asks her to hide under the bed. Creedy and his men come, beat up Gordon and take him in. Evey helplessly witnesses this exactly like she watched her parents. As she tries to escape she is captured too. In the comic, there is no tv show but Gordon and Evey fall in love and Gordon is killed. Evey seeks to take revenge by killing the Fingermen but is captured.
While at this point we are made to think that Creedy has captured her, it is actually V. V takes Evey’s request to make her fearless quite seriously. He tortures Evey and asks her for V’s location for which she will be granted her freedom. Evey is initially scared and has her head shaved off. She’s kept in a room and is slipped Valerie’s toilet paper autobiography in the same way it was delivered to V. Evey is made to live the moments leading up to her possible death just like V. When the time comes Evey chooses death over giving away the location of V. After which V from the shadows tells her “Then you have no more fear”. As she steps out of her cell, she realizes that the guards are simply mannequins and the whole thing was staged. She enters V’s hideout to see V standing in front of her. She loses her mind when she gets to know that it was all staged and she was tortured by V. She calls him evil and has an asthmatic attack. V explains that Gordon was executed because they found a Quran at his place. V calms her down and explains how it is Evey who didn’t give up till the end, that it was her who felt something in the cell and it was her who got stronger by the day. Evey wants air and they head to the roof. Evey experiences her freedom from fear just as V did when he destroys Larkhill’s Centre. This entire sequence is pretty much the same in the comic.
After this, Evey decides to leave V. V explains that there are no more locked rooms and that she is now free to go. Evey thinks the toilet paper is made up too and returns it to V. V explains that it is not fake and Valerie was a prisoner in his neighboring cell in Larkhill. Evey realizes that V is basically getting back at everyone who was involved in the monstrous thing they did to him. She leaves calling V a monster. He requests that he would like to meet Evey one more time before the 5th. She agrees and leaves. V cries because he’s pushed away the one person he was getting close to.
In the meanwhile, Sutler is super annoyed that no one is getting close to the capture of V. Earlier, Finch tries to suggest that the attack could be using a subway system but is shunned as there was no real proof. Creedy is being accused of his incapability of capturing V. Finch is asked to stop wasting his time with his investigations, but he doesn’t.
Finch uncovers a link to Larkhill, a man named Rockwood who has been missing for years. Rockwood seeks a meeting with Finch and Dominic. They oblige. Now what we don’t know at this point is that Rockwood is merely V in disguise. V, as Rockwood, tells Finch about the events of Larkhill, the virus and Creedy convincing Sutler to use the virus on their own country. He also convinces Finch to keep his surveillance on Creedy on high and says he will update them with more. Finch increases his surveillance on Creedy. V uses this to get to Creedy and have a private conversation with him. There is no Rockwood character in the comic. From here there is a lot of divergence from the comic leading to the ending.
Creedy makes a Deal
V knows that a man like Creedy will have his own men around Sutler and when the time comes, he will overthrow Sutler. V makes a deal with Creedy. If Creedy can deliver Sutler to him, V will surrender to Creedy. He explains that this is the only way Creedy can get V. He asks Creedy to mark a cross on his door with a chalk to indicate that Creedy has accepted the deal.
Finch comes to know that Rockwood, the real rockwood is dead. Has been dead for 20 years. V simply uses the missing person, fills in and uses Finch to get the surveillance increased on Creedy. Finch is obviously super pissed and admits their wasting of time and decides to go back to working on capturing V.
In their next meeting with Sutler, they are now just few days from the 5th of November. V hasn’t been caught and Sutler is mad. He states that if for whatever reason V succeeds with the bombing of the parliament then Creedy will be fired. Creedy is obviously pissed. Because you know.. he’s badass and doesn’t like being bossed around. Creedy marks the cross on his door which indicates his accepting V’s deal.
Birth of the Revolution
V, in the meanwhile, starts distributing Guy Fawkes masks all over the country. Finch then understands what is going to happen. This a nice sequence where he sort of preempts what is going to happen and the visuals show glimpses of scenes yet to come, not to mention the lovely domino act. Finch understands that there is going to be a lot of chaos and in that chaos someone could do something stupid. This one stupid act can cause the whole public to unite and start a revolution. As expected, a fingermen chap ends up shooting a small girl wearing the Guy Fawkes mask. Instantly the people turn on him and beat him to death. The mask unites people and makes them overcome their fears. Government should be afraid of their people and not the other way around.
V hands Evey the power
On the 4th of November, Evey visits V and V requests for a dance. Because a revolution without a dance is a revolution not worth having. After this, V takes Evey to the underground station where a train is waiting with explosives. V explains that the world he has been part of is over. The world to come is for the youth. He leaves the decision of blowing up the parliament to her. I suppose he does this because of being called a monster by Evey.
Sutler, in the meanwhile, has ordered for military troupes to swarm the city and kill people who want to stand and witness the destruction of the parliament. V goes away to meet Creedy in the underground tunnel where V has asked for the meeting. Creedy has captured Sutler and brought him there. V asks to see the face of Sutler post which Creedy shoots Sutler in the head. Creedy asks his men to prepare to fire at V who has only his knives and his kung fu. V explains how the only thing common between Creedy and V is that they are both going to die and that Creedy will have his neck snapped. V further explains that what Creedy’s men have are bullets and bullets run out. They will need time to reload and he will do his job before they can reload. Creedy’s men open fire on V who surprisingly is still standing after an entire round of the firing squad. V has been tested on in Larkhill, he’s been enhanced through all the human trials. He’s also wearing armour. The bullets do take a toll, but is not enough to kill him. As promised V kills everyone before they can reload and grabs Creedy by his neck. Prior to snapping his neck he explains calmly that behind his mask is an idea and ideas are bulletproof. The sequence is not the climax in the comic. Creedy is not the final finish. In the comic Sutler is still out there. V kills Creedy and is shot and wounded by Finch.
V crawls his way back to Evey at the station where she kisses him on him Guy Fawkes lips (believe it or not this scene is censored in India, yes it was). V dies, Evey puts him in the train cart and is about the pull the lever. Finch intercepts Evey and asks her to back away. But he too is sold in on the idea that there is something terribly wrong with the country. He lets Evey start the train and it heads its way to the parliament. The people begin to assemble in front of the parliament dressed in Guy Fawkes marks and clothes. The military hears no word of action so they back down. At the strike of the new day, the 5th of November, everyone witnesses the blowing up of the parliament. When people start taking off their masks we can see faces of characters new and those who have died. This is representative of the fact that everyone has in some small ways contributed to the change that they have brought about for themselves. In the comic, V dies and Evey takes over the mantle of V. She dawns the Guy Fawkes mask and continues the struggle for freedom and to take down Sutler.
The idea of switching out the ultimate villain was a great idea. In all his bombastic presence, Sutler falls prey to Creedy and his men and is quickly killed. The real evil mastermind is Creedy, after all it was his idea to kill his own countrymen for the sake of power. Hats off to this film.