Review: Equilibrium

My overall feeling was that this was a flawed, but pretty good, action movie.

After a devastating third world war, mankind finds itself in a dystopic 1984-style future where all citizens of the free state of Libria are required to take drugs every day in order to suppress their emotions, thus preventing the terrifying possibility of a fourth. Also forbidden are such emotional stimulants as poetry, art, music and literature. Outlaws who stay off the dose and collect such banned media live in the wrecked old cityscape of the Nether - or in secret within Libria. They are hunted down and executed with efficiency by the lawmen of the movie - the Grammaton Clerics.

Christian Bale plays John Preston, a high-ranking cleric who, after emotionlessly executing his colleague Partridge (Sean Bean) for "sense offense", misses a dose of Prozium by accident and proceeds to discover emotion for himself. Skip to a predictable ending.

It has its flaws. The style of Libria is slick, but the world is not deep or intriguing. There is no suspicion of far deeper machinations like you get in The Matrix (which, inferior sequels notwithstanding, is a brilliant movie). There are revelations which are rather unsurprising. Christian Bale plays an emotionless automaton extremely well... he plays a slowly awakening, feeling human being pretending to be an emotionless automaton pretty well as well. His slowly awakening, feeling human being could use work though. The dialogue is as flat as one would expect in a world without emotion - and also unmemorable and at times, plain badly-written. There are also some cavernous plot holes - like how can Preston have a wife and two children if there is no emotion and hence no love?

Gun-kata, the much-talked-about martial art that was invented for the movie, is an interesting notion. Preston and the other clerics and high-ranking officials are highly skilled in gun-kata, which is employed in most of the movie's action sequences. The Master Cleric (Angus MacFayden) explains that the places where the antagonist or antagonists will shoot in any given gun battle are statistically predictable - gun-kata involves simply not being there, moving where the bullets aren't, while simultaneously unloading lead into all who oppose you. It's a great idea, with fantastic possibilities, which, in the movie, hilariously boils down to standing in the middle of everybody and not moving while you shoot them two by two. (Preston wields two guns at all times.) Ah well. There is one sequence though which did show me something genuinely innovative - or at least, something which I in my far-from-all-conquering cinematic experiences had not encountered before. It involved two people fighting at VERY close range with a pair of pistols. Each was blocking and pushing away the other's weapons with their hands in order to avoid being shot - and obviously, neither could increase the distance between them without becoming a sitting target. Reminded me a lot of sword-fights in Robin Hood movies. I liked that bit.

The soundtrack, composed by Klaus Badelt, is a point heavily in the film's favour. It is moody, suitable and non-invasive at all times. It is also insanely difficult to get hold of because no soundtrack album for this movie exists. I was eventually able to find it thanks to some help from message board users on an Equilibrium fan site. Good luck with that.

Overall I found it an enjoyable but ultimately unremarkable use of 107 minutes. Imagine, if you will, The Matrix, but without its philosophy, symbolism, style, technology, or 85% of its special effects budget - and if you still like the sound of that, rent Equilibrium.

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