Starring: Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs, William Fichtner, Angus MacFadyen
Reviewed by Jeremy Silman
Rating (a 1 – 6 scale): 4.3
When this film originally came out, I read the reviews and noticed such hostility that I quickly ignored its existence. Looking at the poster at that time, the actor’s Matrix-style coat and Matrix posturing with a gun in his hand seemed to verify the negative press, and fit in nicely with one reviewer’s comment that it was “… nothing but a low budget Matrix rip-off.” Here is one of the endless negative comments concerning Equilibrium:
“The illegitimate offspring of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Minority Report’ (among the many cultural touchstones plundered by writer/director Kurt Wimmer), Equilibrium is a preachy parable stylized with a touch of John Woo bullet ballet.”
Doesn’t sound good, does it? How about this:
“His film, like Equilibrium, constantly hit you over the head with its numerous infantile themes delivered by a succession of cold, impersonal characters.”
Ouch! Let’s try another:
“Equilibrium’s a grossly derivative sci-fi disaster so insipid it’s worth seeing just for its unintended laughs.”
“Equilibrium is a seriously bad film with seriously warped logic by writer-director Kurt Wimmer at the screenplay level.”
I could quote dozens more, but these few “tastes” of reviewer displeasure are more than sufficient to see why Equilibrium was still-born and more or less forgotten before most science fiction fans even knew it existed.
So yes, I, like so many others, did indeed buy into the hype spewed out by these pretentious blowhards who looked down their collective noses at this movie. Fortunately, a more recent review on a site generally dedicated to Asian film raved about it, and so I found myself sitting down in the wee hours of the night expecting nothing less than a train wreck, but still giving it the chance of a fair hearing that I had failed to do earlier.
The story is in the same vein as such classic “beware” tales as Metropolis, 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. Here we have a future where society has decided to end warfare and aggression by eliminating emotions and anything created by artistic feelings. This “end of emotions” concept has never been a favorite of mine. Nevertheless, in these days of leaders who would force their own religious or philosophical beliefs on all they rule (extremists of every ilk, fundamentalism of any type – again, it’s not the philosophy that’s the problem, but the desire to make everyone embrace it whether they wish to or not.), one has to accept that we can easily, unconsciously, slip into a totalitarian quagmire.
In the case of Equilibrium, this control over the masses is done with twice-daily doses of “prozium,” an opiate that turns everyone into a kind of unfeeling, easily programmable robot. And – as is the case with most real governments – the lies, misinformation, and brainwashing is for the masses, not for those in power. So yes, these ideas have been bandied about for ages and are anything but original, but they are also valid warnings for the past, and what can easily shape up to be our future.
What first captured my attention (and never let go) was the film’s slow, somber, mesmerizing mood. Christian Bale plays a “cleric” (named John Preston) – a sort of super-cop trained in a form of gunplay I’ve never seen before. In fact, it’s this original “gun-fu” form of martial arts that finally sold me on the film in a major way – how often does one see anything that’s original, energetic, moody, stylized, and well acted?
I admit that I thoroughly loved this film. It has major flaws; that can’t be denied. And it cut back on spending whenever possible, thereby avoiding the lavish FX that seem a part of all modern sci-fi efforts. But its style, feel, and great action sequences more than make up for any perceived pitfalls.
If you enjoy action flicks, movies with mood, science fiction, and/or warnings about political correctness and the forced melding of ideas and thoughts into one acceptable form of behavior, then you’ll find Equilibrium a very fulfilling watch.