STARRING:Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs,
Angus MacFadyen, Sean Bean, Oliver Brandl, Francesco Cabras
2002, 106 Minutes, Directed by: Kurt Wimmer
Description:Earth's post-World War III humankind is in a state of severe emotional
repression: If no one feels anything, no one will be inspired by dark
passions to attack their neighbors. John Preston (Christian Bale) is a top
cop who busts "sense offenders" and crushes sentimental, sensual, and
artistic relics from a bygone era. Predictably, Preston becomes intrigued by
his victims and that which they die to cherish; he stops taking his
mandatory, mood-flattening drug and is even aroused by a doomed prisoner
you were disappointed by recent sci-fi actioners like
Terminator 3 and Matrix Reloaded, then
you’d probably be pleasantly surprised by this underappreciated 2002 movie
starring Christian Bale (of American Psycho fame).
With no pretentious
psychobabble to distract or simply rehashing old plots, Equilibrium
sticks doggedly to its storyline and is bound to please action movie fans.
After World War III
it is decided that human nature – or rather human emotions to be specific –
are to be blamed for man’s destructive history. This conveniently
forgets that the reason for the last major international war (America
invading Iraq) was actually about keeping gas-guzzling SUVs on the road. It
is however decided to change human nature by putting the entire population
on a self-administered drug called Prozium (geddit?) which is designed to
eliminate any emotions.
Far easier I’d say to
destroy all those ugly, unsafe and polluting SUVs – but I guess people just
can’t bring themselves to part with the ungainly beasts. (Is it just me or
do they all look like CPU cooler fans on wheels?)
"Still manages to engage despite its lack of originality . . ."
the entire population on Prozac, er sorry, Prozium doesn’t seem to be
particularly successful though. There may not be any wars, but the level
of violence employed by the fascist dictatorship that administers the drug
to its citizens in destroying so-called “sense offenders” (or people who
have stopped taking the drug) is high enough to rival any gang skirmish on
the streets of L.A.
In fact, the new government led by Big Broth . . . , er
sorry Father, actually went to the trouble of devising a new martial art
blending gunfight techniques with traditional kung fu and the like called
“gun-kata”. This new martial art (it looks like John Woo gunfights on
overdrive) is employed by special agents of the government appropriately
called “clerics” (they wear long black cloaks similar to those of Keanu
Reaves in The Matrix Reloaded).
These “clerics” not only hunt and kill off opponents of the
government, but also destroy anything that might elicit any human emotions
– cultural artifacts such as Da Vinci paintings, W.B. Yeats poetry
collections, Beethoven recordings, tax returns (I just made that last one
up – I suppose they still get those).
One of these “clerics”
(Bale, now all buffed up after American Psycho and ready to don the
action hero mantle left behind by Arnold Schwarzenegger now that he is
pursuing a political career) stops taking his medication and soon finds
himself in conflict with the same regime which he has been so zealously
defending all his life.
However, none of this really matters because Equilibrium
somehow still manages to engage by investing more time in its story and
characters than most action movies.
Bale is perfectly
cast and his supporting cast does okay too. Having an emotionless society is
a brilliant conceit though. It’s a perfect excuse for bad acting: they’re
supposed to be wooden because they’re all drugged to the eye balls! It’s a
bit like casting Arnie as a robot in The Terminator
movies . . .
(One niggle though: some of the characters who are supposed to emotionless
seemed quite animated at times, banging tables in tantrums, grinning
smugly and so forth.)
The action scenes are well choreographed and quite stunning
to watch. The plot also throws up some unexpected surprises along the way
(one involves a hallowed movie convention that states that no harm shall
come to any pets).
Equilibrium is a
definite crowd pleaser.
Besides, as one
critic has pointed out: it is difficult to dislike a movie in which the art,
poetry and classical music lovers are the heroes . . .