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Kiefer Sutherland Brought Depth to Snake, Despite Controversy

A lot has been said about Metal Gear Solid V over the years. One hot topic always seems to involve Kiefer Sutherland and the voice of Venom Snake. Much controversy stems from the decision to replace longtime Snake voice actor David Hayter with the actor. However, Sutherland had his own merits.

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Warning: This article includes spoilers for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

First things first! I do feel that David Hayter should have been Snake, or at least involved somewhat in the game. The way he was tossed aside never did sit right with me. However, I think Kiefer Sutherland is an incredible actor. I was sad about Hayter, but optimistic about Sutherland when the news first broke.

What we got, especially given the situation, was a truly stellar Venom Snake performance by Kiefer Sutherland. He brought a reverence and mystery to Venom Snake, while still providing enough of what people came to expect. Given the twist of Venom not actually being Big Boss, the entire thing played into the lore. Sutherland did an excellent job playing someone who thought he was someone else.

What we got, especially given the situation, was a truly stellar Venom Snake performance by Kiefer Sutherland in Metal Gear Solid V.
Screenshot by Siliconera

“You’ve written your own history.”

Venom Snake has very few lines of dialogue, often functioning as a borderline silent protagonist. This minimalistic approach is intentional, again given the game’s now famous twist ending. Despite the limited dialogue, much of Sutherland’s performance shines through the use of facial motion capture. It’s a feature that was nearly impossible in previous Metal Gear Solid games due to technical limitations.

Through his facial expressions, Sutherland effectively conveys the complex emotions of Venom Snake. He appears confident in spite of confusion. He is patient, yet intolerant of foolishness. This nuanced performance adds depth to the character and helps immerse the player in the game’s narrative. Hideo Kojima, the game’s creator, mentioned that this was one reason for casting a film actor like Sutherland. (However, he’d been trying to replace Hayter with a film actor for years, so I think Kojima just really wants to be best friends with celebrities.)

When Sutherland does get an opportunity to speak as Venom Snake, he knocks it out of the park with a quiet confidence that only comes from his decades of experience. I want to pick out one scene in particular that I feel is quite possibly the best monologue in the entire series. It’s short, poignant, and wonderfully performed.

What we got, especially given the situation, was a truly stellar Venom Snake performance by Kiefer Sutherland in Metal Gear Solid V.
Screenshot by Siliconera

The scene occurs at the end of Mission 43, “Shining Lights, Even in Death.” After an emotionally draining mission, during which Venom Snake (and thus us) is forced to kill his infected soldiers, there is a scene where the ashes of the fallen are prepared to be buried at sea.

Tensions run high as Huey accuses Snake of being responsible for the massacre. Miller defends Snake, insisting that there was no other way and that the soldiers wanted him to shoot them. As Venom Snake begins to spread the first urn of ashes, he stops and delivers one of the most famous lines in the game:

“I won’t scatter your sorrow to the heartless sea. I will always be with you.”

He then spreads the ashes on his own face.

“Plant your roots in me. I won’t see you end as ashes.”

Finally, he decides that the soldiers will not be buried at sea but will instead be ground into diamonds and worn on their uniforms.

“You’re all diamonds.”

This scene stands out as one of the most emotional in the series, and Sutherland’s performance is a significant part of its impact. His delivery is quiet, sorrowful, and restrained, effectively conveying the weight of the moment. The facial expressions and subtle nuances in his voice draw the player into Venom Snake’s emotions.

Unlike the dramatic and overtly emotional death of Sniper Wolf, this scene carries multiple layers of complexity. Sutherland portrays a Venom Snake who blames himself yet remains strong for his surviving soldiers, reveres his fallen comrades, and grapples with his quest for revenge. This intricate performance would have been challenging for a less experienced actor.

While Metal Gear Solid V has its share of problems, the performance of Kiefer Sutherland and the “Shining Lights, Even in Death” scene are highlights. They remind us why the series is so beloved. Despite the controversy, Sutherland brought depth and nuance to Venom Snake, proving that he was a worthy successor to the iconic role.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is currently available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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Cory Dinkel
Cory Dinkel is a freelance writer for Siliconera since 2023. An award-winning digital journalist, he has worked for local and national news outlets for nearly a decade. His favorite genre is the JRPG and he will not be taking questions during his "There is Not a Love Triangle in Final Fantasy VII" speech.