Sci - Fi
Equilibrium
.
Dir: Kurt Wimmer
Star: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, Sean Bean, Sean Pertwee
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2003
Format: DVD R1
'
Top

In the first years of the 21st Century, a third world war broke out. Those of us who survived, knew mankind could never survive a fourth. That our own volatile nature could simply no longer be risked.
So, we created a new arm of the law..... The Grammaton Cleric. Whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of mans inhumanity to man......... His ability to feel.

The citizens of "Libria", a dystopian society of the future ruled by the charismatic leadership of "father" (Sean Pertwee) and his council. Under the iron rule of "Father" the citizens must take their regular "intervals" (state provided injections to suppress / eradicate feeling and emotion). This is due to the criminalisation of emotion and feeling. Any person who doesn't take the drugs and live in accordance to the rules of "Father" and the council are summarily incinerated / executed, along with any individual who refuses to take the drugs, has anything which could be construed as having emotional content or is just regarded as plain old fashioned contraband. The will of "father" is exerted by the feared "Grammaton Clerics" an elite unit formed to police the new emotionless society with extraordinary abilities and training. Cleric, John Preston (Christian Bale) is the highest ranking and best that the order have. His unquestioning, unwavering belief in the system makes him a feared and respected member of the order. When Preston discovers that his cleric partner and friend is guilty of "sense crimes" he is forced to exact justice upon him and kill him. Soon after, Preston's life changes when he accidentally forgets to take his regular dose of the emotion suppressing mass opiate "Prozium". The drug chemically eradicates all emotion and feeling. Human emotion was deemed a disease so they "cured" it and with Prozium they also have the means to control the population. As if that wasn't enough, any materials deemed to be of "Emotive Content" which may prove damaging are labelled EC-10 and subsequently incinerated, unfortuantely this also includes any resident or individual that refuses to take their "medication". Preston however is in awe of his new found sensations and feelings, and continues to miss his intervals, but his new fanatical junior partner Brandt (Taye Diggs) suspects that he is not himself and eager to make a career for himself will stop at nothing to disgrace and shame his peer. Unfortunately, Preston is beginning to question this idyllic city that he has been striving to protect from the very thing that makes them human. Preston now has his own agenda to enforce, and it doesn't follow the "path" of the Tetragrammaton.....

What can I say other than "wow", what a sumptuous visual feast this is. I am suitably impressed. A good, original story which has some stark similarities to a Nazi Germany in many ways. ie: burning of literature and works of art which don't conform to the "new order". You can see this dystopian society of Libria striving to become detached from the last vestiges of their humanity, their emotions. Equilibrium is probably not what you'd expect, but this brilliant story which has obvious influences of Orwell's 1984 and Farenheit 451 is very well crafted and put together. This is a delightful return to sci-fi action in a modern vain, which means that it benefits from the use of very well orchestrated photography and some well appointed and minimal CGI effects. Thankfully this is all encompassed within a reassuringly engaging and thought provokingly stimulating film.

The concept of attaining and maintaining a "perfect balance" of feeling and emotion is of course a very Buddhist principle, although being honest it is a paradoxical goal as there must be an opposing force to provide resistance for everything in nature ; hot and cold, good and evil etc. The use of drugs to control a population is not a new approach and neither is an elite "police" unit to control the masses. Such is the atmosphere of the film, in places you expect to see a Swastika, even though the Tetragrammaton have their own plainly evident symbol.

This is a high octane, sci-fi action fest and features some truly brilliant, visually and technically combat scenes and choreography. The "Gun - Kata" is a novel and original approach to the cinematic gun battle, which is very impressive. Much of the action is accompanied by monastic chanting / musical overture which affords a distinctly eerie feel to the violence. The full bore choreography is pretty much flawless throughout and the very explosive. The edge of your seat finale easily rivals the infamous "lobby scene" from The Matrix despite being a shorter and more fluidic assault. The uber cool opening to the film will most likely leave you open mouthed in awe at what you saw and continues it's momentum allowing the story to unfold at a fair pace without sacrificing any of the superb atmosphere.

There are some fantastic performances in this film and Christian Bale (Reign of Fire) is terrific, giving a providing a captivating performance as his character experiences a range of emotions. He has come a long way and I can't wait to see what he does next, as he handles the action superbly here and is very impressive in this role with both his action and acting abilities. Taye Diggs is another actor rising through the ranks and has made good progress since his appearance in ( The House on Haunted Hill). His portrayal of the arrogant cleric Brandt is good but he is overshadowed a little by Bale. Sean Pertwee is very under used to be honest, as he really needed a more involved part than he got. Once again Sean Bean comes and goes again in the first half of the film. What is going on with him thesedays, he doesn't seem to be getting any complete roles. Perhaps he is attempting the Sean Pertwee acting method - take a cameo part or a role where you die before the end of the film, which obviously seems to do him well enough. Great shame really, as we should see more of both of those fine actors. Some notable cameo appearances in the film by British comedian Brian Conley unexpected but fun and the instantly recognisable David Hemmings. Overrall the strong ensemble cast provide some good and memorable performances.

The cinematography is superb as are the special effects. The relatively meagre budget by modern movie standards has been well spent. The direction of Kurt Wimmer is fantastic and overrall quite awesome. He has crafted an atmospheric and energetic sci-fi action film with an intelligent script, which he also wrote. The story has some nice twists as the story unfolds and is a compelling watch. Equilibrium is super slick and mega stylish. The film is a fascinating watch and quite a breath taking spectacle. This is definately one film that you will just want to see again (probably straight away).

Atmospheric and energetic film, simply superb and quite awesome overrall. Don't expect another The Matrix style sci-fi action flick, when you watch this because that isn't what this is about and it is about time people realised that the The Matrix IS NOT the damned bench mark for film and all other films should not therefore be compared to it. Would you say that Alien was post Star Wars? of course not, which is my point exactly. Equilibrium doesn't profess to being The Matrix so don't expect to see loads of "Bullet time", heavy reliance upon CGI, flying hero in leather and sunglasses with unfeasible amounts of weaponry or excessive kung -fu by wires. Equilibrium retains a distinct originality in terms of the on screen combat and manages to create some excellent characters without having to embellish them with now cliche Matrix-isms.

This is an outstanding film with some innovative direction and it proves a striking assault upon the senses. Very focussed and thoughtfully engaging, elevating the genre to a new aesthetic.

Tagline

In a future where freedom is outlawed, outlaws will become heroes.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Glitz's say:

I think that a film can receive no greater insult than to be claimed as better than another film. This comment instantly means the film is not original, and usually means that it is worse than the movie it is compared to. This applies doubly so for anything that is compared to The Matrix. So it is with a sense of foreboding that I am faced with the box of Equilibrium which indeed claims it is better than The Matrix.

There are similarities for sure, the slickly staged (and pretty unfeasible) gunfights, the emotionless hero, and the propensity for the cast to wear stylish long black coats. However the story here is a very different affair, it is in fact from the book Fahrenheit 451. What I hear you cry not another remake, well no this is more of a case of wholesale theft. The similarities are striking, from the law enforcement agency employed to burn emotional material. To the officer that reads what he is meant to be destroying and turns against the system. The whole thing is very familiar. It would be fair to say this is Fahrenheit 451 for the MTV generation.

Don't get me wrong the fusion of other people's ideas doesn't mean that this is a bad film, far from it in fact. Kurt Wimmer's direction is slick and stylish, and the gunfights are spectacular. It takes the interesting 1984 big brother style dictatorship and adds something lacking in previous movies of this type, and that is action. It is a good mix of eye candy and intellect with a few interesting and unexpected plot twists thrown in for good measure.

The cast is a strange bunch indeed. The lead is the very good Christian Bale (fresh from Reign of Fire) and he delivers a fascinating performance as a largely emotionless man coming to terms with feelings. This emotionless performance coupled with the costume \ styling is very similar to both Keanu's Reeves Neo or Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Taye Diggs is badly miscast and obviously out of his depth as he struggles to provide a threat to the main character. Other notable actors provide good turns but are limited by other factors. For example Sean Pertwee doesn't seem old enough for the role of father, and Sean Bean's character lasts five minutes and is on the whole pointless. Thank heavens then for an excellent performance from Emily Watson.

What is original is the ludicrously named "martial art" of gun-kata. This is definitely one of the high points of the film. Yes it is silly and obviously doesn't work unless your attackers form a circle around you, stand quite close, and can't shoot straight, but there is no doubt it is cool. For heavens sake don't think about things to much, otherwise facts like the scarily incompetent resistance (who suddenly become crack shots when the revolution begins), or the fact that government has no defence against their own martial art start to annoy you. Ignore these things and without doubt you will have a blast.

Equilibrium is a fine film. It may not be original but it is slick entertainment. With a story that harks back to the early days when plot mattered more than effects there is something to think about as well as lots to watch. The lead actors are well up to the task (with one exception) and provide some gripping performances. Overall this is a dark, smooth, clever, dumb, original pastiche of other people's ideas, and despite these contradictions it works well and is definitely one to watch.

Which just leaves the question is it better than The Matrix? Sorry No. If it was you would be seeing all new movies claiming that they are better than Equilibrium wouldn't you.

Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD
Picture 2.35:1 Widescreen Excellent crisp image
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Fantastic
Features Dreary static menu
Series of 4 movie trailers
Small but interesting featurette "Finding Equilibrium"
Cool commentary track by director Kurt Wimmer
Another cool commentary track with director Kurt Wimmer and producer Lucas Foster - slightly more interesting than the first commentary
Verdict Good transfer and sound, but there is a lack of relevant bonus materials. I would hope that there is a "Special Edition" due out as there must be more goodies for this film.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home