Equilibrium (2002) / Sci Fi-Action
MPAA Rated: R for violence
Running Time: 107 min.
Cast: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, Angus MacFadyen, Sean Bean, Sean Pertwee
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer
Review published February 26, 2003
Equilibrium doesn't so much invoke a feeling of excitement as it does deja vu. Like George Orwell's 1984, the events take place in a bleak future where emotion is forbidden, and all those who exhibit it are arrested and exterminated. Like The Matrix, there's "Gun Fu," (or Gun-Kata, if you prefer) the type of gun-play ballet that displays quick-cut carnage in slow-motion, opera-like exhilaration. Like Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, the totalitarian government sends out specially trained agents in search of valuable works of art to be destroyed in a "baptism of fire." Bits and pieces of many other genres and classic films offer much of the rest, from German expressionism to martial arts to Blade Runner's claustrophobic look around the city.
The events of Equilibrium take place in a post-apocalyptic world where the human race has been reduced to living in a land called Libria. The government that is instituted is a totalitarian one, under the iron thumb of someone called the "Father," (Pertwee, Formula 51) who has outlawed any form of emotion in a way to prevent war and violence. Even artifacts that might inspire emotion, such as paintings and poetry, are forbidden to own or look at. The entire population is under sedation from a drug they must take to balance their emotions, and not doing so is also cause for removal from society.
John Preston (Bale, Reign of Fire) is a Clerick, a dangerous policeman with special powers in the form of martial arts training and an ability to sense emotions. He is the best at what he does, but finds himself curious as to what emotions are, and when he meets an attractive woman who is part of the rebellion, he is conflicted where his loyalties lie.
While all of these homages make the film interesting, unfortunately the presentation offers little new. The Matrix combined many genres into a unique new hybrid, but Equilibrium only regurgitates the lifted themes without anything new to add. The result is an uneven experience, because we like the themes presented, but they are conceived in such a simplistic way that the film has little credibility as a possible vision of what an actual future might be like. The fighting is exhilarating, yet somehow feels uneven when juxtaposed with the somber mood of the rest of the story. Yet, without it Equilibrium might feel like a two-hour long ad for Calvin Klein's "Obsession," starring Dieter from SNL's "Sprockets."
Equilibrium might be entertaining if you've never heard of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, or any of the other films which might dip from the same thematic sci-fi pool for inspiration. However, if you are on that level already, you'd be better off watching any of the film versions of either book, as they are far better than Equilibrium all-around. It's a film so bland, that if the nation of Librium ever were to come into existence in the future, there would be no need to destroy any copies of this film. It's hard to evoke any emotions watching drama this disinteresting.
©2003 Vince Leo