Equilibrium

Equilibrium [3.5/5]
Written and Directed by Kurt Wimmer

Cast
John Preston (Christian Bale)
Brandt (Taye Diggs)
Mary O’Brien (Emily Watson)
Dupont (Angus MacFadyen)
Partridge (Sean Bean)

Elements of this film draw on classic traditions of science fiction shown in stories such as Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Logan’s Run, and other dystopian visions of the future, as well as the kind of special effects action made well-known by The Matrix. Long story short: In a post-apocalyptic society, emotion has been outlawed in an attempt to avoid the darker side of human nature, which is held responsible for causing war. The status quo is enabled by a prozac-like drug, and upheld by the Clerics, enforcers of the resulting police-state. Resistance members who refuse to take the drug, enjoy not only feelings, but expressions such as art, and pay by violently being put to death. John Preston is the best of the Clerics, at the top of his game, until he misses a dose of the drug, and spends the rest of the story moving towards a point where he will either be the Savior or Destroyer of the resistance itself.

Possible spoilers follow…

The themes of the film explored some interesting ground with regard to the price for emotional living – but the script was (perhaps unavoidably) uneven in this respect. For example, several instances where feelings still showed through – pride, ambition, anger, and so forth – even in the strict ranks of the Clerics. Bale’s performance was probably the most convincing in regard to this aspect, but Preston’s emerging emotions allowed the role more flexibility. While perhaps slightly flawed, this is an admirable challenge – after all, how easy can it be to portray a part that will arouse emotions in the audience in a construct where such things must be avoided by the characters. Matthew Harbour also does an amazing job as Preston’s son, to all appearances a disciple of both his father and the regime, while hiding a secret of his own.

Those not familiar with the genre may find some of the action scenes a bit over the top, but Gun-Fu aspects will likely appeal to aficionados of Hong Kong action films and the like. The first example – Preston’s firing into the dark and its strobe-like effect – certainly made for a provocative cinematic introduction to this film’s version of martial arts.

While the narrative remains stimulating, the plot stumbles on occasion. And – if one is familiar with the genre – the story is generally predictable, though the twists towards the end are engaging. Conceptually artistic from both the intellectual and the action point of view – overall, an enjoyable and intelligent film.

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