Equilibrium (2002)

Equilibrium (2002)

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The dog's decision to urinate at that exact moment was ill-judged. A Bale-sized rant was imminent.
The dog’s decision to urinate at that exact moment was ill-judged. A Bale-sized rant was imminent.

Twitter Plot Summary: In a future fascistic state, emotion is forbidden. Christian Bale’s cleric fights back against the system.

Five Point Summary:

1. Sean Bean’s in it for a bit.
2. Why is Taye Diggs smiling all the time?
3. The dog is always your downfall.
4. Starting to get the urge to punch Diggs in the face.
5. Face slicing goodness!

In a future fascistic state of Libria in the aftermath of World War 3 – and if you weren’t clear on this, there are numerous clips of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime prominently used to emphasise the point – Sean Pertwee gives an oratory about restricting human emotion and thus reducing the threat of war and all that jazz. And so in this dystopia world emotion is forbidden but a plucky group of freedom fighters battle against the system in a society that has given up on the arts, creativity and, apparently, all colour beyond blacks, greys and browns.

The casting of both Sean Bean and Sean Pertwee is liable to send genre fans mad with delight, especially if they are aware of their previous works and know what fate ultimately awaits most of their characters. Thankfully there are a few twists and turns, and not just for these characters, although perhaps not enough to give the story any real depth.

Stylish and full of post-Matrix special effects, Equilibrium owes its visual style to the likes of George Orwell’s 1984, with an added dash of science fiction classic Metropolis for good measure. Whilst both of those works are heavy on their social satire, Equilibrium is no different, but it could have gone much further than it did. The Prozium used to enslave the populace is clearly not being used by those higher up in the echelons of Libria, subtly emphasising the hypocrisy at play. That might also go some way to resolving the problem that is Taye Diggs and his photogenic smugness. Seriously, if you’re not on the Prozium then remember not to spend the whole film smirking like a poor man’s Cheshire Cat.

Stop smiling.
Stop smiling.

In terms of the Gun Kata, as the martial arts gunwork is dubbed, the set pieces are nicely spaced out and well choreographed, with guns and swords flying left, right and centre in a display of orchestrated violence. It’s this aspect in particular that director Kurt Wimmer manages to get spot on, even if his script writing skills lack polish. The big themes on display are sufficient, but you get the feeling that not enough time has been dedicated to letting them breathe within the film itself – instead what we have is something that is as equally heavy-handed in delivering the “Big Message” as it is light on details.

Bale’s Preston begins as an emotionless automaton who slowly comes to realise that there’s more to life than simply carrying out orders; that art, creativity and displaying emotion are what make life worth living rather than the fascist state’s insistence that emotion is the root cause of all society’s ills. The finale is rife with symbolism, as the newly awakened Bale is switched from black to a white outfit, entirely out of context other than to symbolically emphasise his separation from the state, leading to the final showdown. Beyond this there isn’t much depth to the narrative, an opportunity to be considered on par with the aforementioned 1984 is ignored in exchange for a couple of fun action sequences and perhaps a realisation on Wimmer’s part that he’s not adept at providing that level of narrative depth. And what message can we take from Equilibrium overall? Fascism just doesn’t work, and Christian Bale is darn handy with a gun. And a sword. And the occasional rant at a crew member.

Score: 3.5/5

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