on March 6, 2004
I can understand the urge to compare "Equilibrium" and "The Matrix". Both films feature dark, foreboding cinematography. Both films are about rebellion against a warped reality. Both films feature a reluctant, messianic protagonist. And, finally, both films rely heavily on stylistic, hyper-kinetic combat scenes that can only be described as, well, reverent. That is where the similarity ends because while "Equilibrium" has a few moments of slow-motion it's action scenes are much more original than those of "The Matrix Trilogy". No Wires, just pure crazy choreography which makes the action feel all the more authentic. The environment is also a great deal more organic in contrast to the cryptic automaton of the Matrix.
"Equilibrium", in short, manages to be entirely its own movie. Where The Matrix relies on "bending" the rules of physics in an imaginary construct of a world, "Equilibrium" goes the other way and hypothesizes the "Gun-Kata", a martial arts ballet that allows it's practitioners to predict and anticipate close quarters gun fighting and hand to hand combat. Then, through a series of precise, dance like movements, a person can take on several combatants, using exacting, fluid actions to eliminate his attackers. Given a decidedly artistic presentation within the course of the film, these rapid-fire rhapsodies are exhilarating and oddly beautiful. They glamorize death as an abstract expression of powder bursts and shrieking projectiles. The film features some of the best choreographed shootouts I have ever seen, and ends up putting anything in The Matrix Trilogy to shame.
"Equilibrium" is a film that explores what it theorizes to be the root of all worldly chaos, human emotion. The movie takes place in the near future after a third world war that leaves Earth on the verge of total destruction. From the ashes arises a government that regulates everything and everyone through mind control. The drug Prozium is hailed as the elixir to the world's problems because it suppresses human emotion and thus eliminates the possibility war. All art, music, poetry and any emotion are considered contraband and must be destroyed upon discovery.
The primary clash is between individualism and collectivism -- the notion that each person is an end to him or herself and pursues his or her own happiness, and the theory that the individual exists only to further the interests of the state. In "Equilibrium", the side of "feelings" (the side that promotes painting, music, and literature) is the side of the sovereign individual.
The film clearly suggests that emotions -- the ability to "feel" -- are what make life worth living; yet they are also the source of violence and war. At some level, this is clearly true. The joy of art, the intensity of romantic love, the pleasures of a touch or the sight of a sunrise, the fascination of a great idea -- these are the things we live for. "Crimes of passion" such as murder, domestic violence, and assault generally involve uncontrolled emotions.
In "Equilibrium", murder and war among the civilian population have been wiped out. Of course, they have been replaced by state-sponsored murder and terror. Thus, the film points out the real purpose of deadening people's emotions is to perpetuate state oppression.
This nightmare is presided over by the Big Brother-like dictator Father, and enforced by a quasi-religious order of "Clericks," whose incredible combat skills are unleashed on "sense offenders" who have gone off the drugs that keep the populace docile.
John Preston (Christian Bale) is the perfect Grammaton Clerick (the government is known as the Tetragrammaton). He kills "sense offenders" without passion or guilt ... until he inadvertently fails to take his prescribed tranquilizer dose and events begin to catch up with him. Little by little, he finds himself drawn into "sense crime" and then into the resistance. I hesitate to reveal much more about the plot of "Equilibrium", jammed as it is with surprise and invention -- suffice to say, this is an intellectual rollercoaster ride, as cerebral as it is visceral; both a bleak glimpse into a possible future and a stirring tribute to the indomitable human spirit.
The creators of "Equilibrium" had to take some liberties with the very idea of emotion, of course. The drug really only eliminates the "highs" and "lows," leaving enough emotive strength for the characters to retain ambition and a visceral hatred of their enemies. Plot means conflict and human conflict is impossible without emotion.
The acting is excellent, and if you like Christian Bale as much as I do, he shines above all else. Bale is truly exceptional in bringing a real sense of emotional conflict to the character of Preston, and as the film moves on he gradually brings that emotion to the forefront. At the start of the film, and in it's many flashbacks, Preston is supposed to be this emotionless killer that doesn't realize he's actually feeling subtle emotions. Bale's performance keeps the perfect monotone voice of an emotionless character, but in his eyes shows the doubt, remorse and anger. Then as the films moves on he gradually starts changing his tone of voice, allowing the monotone to falter in key moments, until in the end he completely releases all of his emotions.
As you can tell, Equilibrium's plot draws from a rich variety of sources. There's a lot of Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World".
True, there are a few minor plot problems, but any movie that treats ideas and symbols seriously these days is a find, and one that pulls off a serious treatment of life's most fundamental questions in the context of a gripping story is a rare jewel.
"Equilibrium" is not science fiction so much as political speculation. It's that mainstay of movies, the cautionary tale, twisted into a decidedly dense and deceptive action thriller. While it may not always deliver in the thought department, we sure get some wonderful visual flourishes. And if a sci-fi film can stir your imagination, it's won most of the battle.
The creation of the enigmatic weapons battle dance, "Gun-Kata", makes the movie a see at least once exercise in speculative movie making.
on April 10, 2003
Sci-fi flick with stunning visuals, "Equilibrium" deserves much more attention not only from fans of genre, but also from general audiences. Sure, its flaws are too visible, borrowing Orwellian ideas from other films like, say, "Brazil," but it is not that ideas themselves but the way they are put into practice that really counts, and on that score "Equiliburium" is a winner. (And critics, please let me know, why do you all praise Steven's "Minority Report" which actually borrows ideas from other films of this genre? So, why not give this one a due respect?)
Well, I admit the opening chapter of "Equilibrium" is a bit weak, introducing us to the dystopia world after the WW3, but soon you will forget that. The totalitarian government established after the war decided to eliminate anything that might possibly make humans emotional, forcing the people to inject a certain doze of [chemical substance] to be unemotional every day. Moreover, it decrees there should be no more music (not only hip-hops, but classic music), no more motion pitures, and no more decorated interiors. Those who love them hide underground, becoming rebels while the authroity set up a super-cop troop called "Grammaton Clerics."
Christian Bale ("American Psyco") is John Preston the best of the Clerics, and dedicates himself to the job until he arrests a woman Mary O'Brien who possessd illegal stuffs. But her strong creed and perhaps beauty make their way into the sleeping heart of Preston, who has been long fighting for his cause.
The film's philosophical messages are in themselves not new at all, and director Kurt Wimmer might have kept his idea a little too long. I say so, because today, in the 21st century, it is not this Orwellian society that we are afraid of most. The story has enough twists to surprise us, but maybe one too many, I think, and the wrap-up part of the film feels a bit hurriedly done.
However, those are noting before the film's sensational action scenes, which can make up for any flawed part of the film. The "Gun-Kata" fighting deserves special mention, using [weapons] like Japanese swords, and its hyper-kinetic movement is very violent and very beautiful at the same time. Incredible it might sound, but Christian Bale shows excellent action star quality here, displaying the beauty of "Kata"s -- and "kata" means in Japanese "style." Yes, there are lots of styles in "Equilibrium."
Other plsyers are also effectively cast, and most unexpected is Emily Watson, who quite naturally becomes the Joan D'Arc-like character. Taye Diggs is good as Preston's partner, and though short time, Sean Bean, cast against type, is also perfect as Partridge who plays a key role in the story.
I was quite surprised and satisfied, and even thrilled to see this neglected film, which should have been more pushed. Again I say, its actions are sensational. Not that this is "Matrix"; rather, it is more unique and has its own "kata" = style, which means a lot these days.
on January 16, 2003
People who call Equilibrium a Matrix rip off really bother me, not only because Equilibrium is a far better movie but because said people are implying that The Matrix was something new and original and different. Riiiiiight.
I won't say that Equilibrium is the most original movie ever; indeed both Equilibrium and The Matrix are amalgams of various films, books, etc. that had come before. And as previous reviewers have stated, Equilibrium relies more on 1984 and Brave New World for inspiration, NOT The Matrix. The two films really have little in common, other than the anti-utopia and martial arts elements.
Personally, I think the future world presented in Equilibrium is a far more powerful and ironic piece of cinema. The thought of robots enslaving humanity is one of those truths that everyone pretty much accepts: "Worlds governed by artificial intelligence learned a hard lesson: logic doesn't care." Hand things over to the robots, and the human element so necessary in government is gone. We know this. Equilibrium, however, portrays the attempt to end man's inhumanity to man by making everyone inhuman and thereby perpetuating an even GREATER inhumanity. It's the thought of saving humanity by destroying it. In Equilibrium The Man not some soulless robot that can't understand feelings; instead He is another human being enslaving and dehumanizing His fellow man, trying to cure the disease by killing the patient.
The story is one of my personal favorite archetypal plots, that of a man who first serves an evil system, then realizes everything he has thought for so long is wrong and turns against said system and fights for its destruction. Christian Bale is incredible, and his character (John Preston of the elite Grammaton Cleric) is brilliantly dynamic. A few minutes into the film, he hunts down and without second thought puts a bullet in the face of a fellow cleric (Sean Bean) who has betrayed the standards of unemotionality the government has set, and all the while his face is perfectly placid and unfeeling, as if the traitor were no more than an insect to be exterminated. But by the end of the film he is the heart of humanity, beating strongly and indefatigably.
Oh, speaking of that scene, sorry, Bean fans; I myself wish Sean Bean had more of a role. I'll tell you, though, the five or ten minutes of screen time he gets is great stuff, especially his reading of Yeats' "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven".
Heading up the rest of the cast are Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, Angus MacFadyen, and William Fichtner. Diggs plays Brandt, a subordinate cleric who becomes Preston's new partner and hounds him mercilessly when he begins to suspect that Preston has stopped taking prozium (the government issue anti-emotion drug). Diggs' performance is deliciously insidious, and his unblinking eye and subtle accusations keep Preston on the hop constantly.
Emily Watson is Mary O'Brien, a "sense offender" who helps Preston on his journey to discover his true humanity. She is very sincere and quite unsettling, and her pointed arguments stab deep into what Preston had thought to be his most important values.
Angus MacFadyen plays Vice-Council DuPont, head of the Grammaton Cleric and a member of the ruling Council of Libria (which seems to be a government covering the entire world...which is much changed from the world we know after World War III ripped everything up; for the observant among you, look for the globe of the new Earth, I think it's in DuPont's office somewhere; continents shattered, lots more ocean, it's nifty). DuPont is my favorite character. He is a master martial artist, a brilliant politician, a clever spymaster, and...well...much more. You'll see.
William Fichtner is a cool actor usually, though he doesn't shine too much in Equilibrium, not through his fault but through the fault of his character, Jurgen, leader of the resistance. The role just isn't particularly interesting and really serves to drive the story rather than standing on its own.
The kung fu is absolutely amazing. The Grammaton Cleric created a form of eastern style martial art that specifically relates to the use of and combat against firearms. By analyzing thousands of gun battles, the Cleric determined that the distribution of attacking gun wielders could be statistically predicted. Clerics are taught to know instinctually when they must duck, dodge, shoot, etc. You can't dodge a bullet once it's left the gun, but by knowing who is likely to shoot at you and when and where, you can anticipate the attack and move to avoid a shot that hasn't even been fired yet. It's a fascinating concept. I am told the United States military teaches something like it to elite soldiers.
Anyway, needless to say there are several major scenes of Preston dual wielding pistols and blowing the poop out of tons and tons of people. It's incredible to watch. There's even a scene where Preston and DuPont fight hand to hand, using their pistols like melee weapons. I can't really describe it, but it's ... amazing. And there're a couple good sword fights in the film, too. And a sequence where Preston bashes a bunch of cops using the butts of his pistols. You have to see this jank to believe it.
Lastly, I'd like to mention that the wardrobe is SWEET. The highest ranking clerics wear these black leather cassocks when they're in the office and awesome black suits with high mandarin collared jackets that extend to knee length when they're in the field. I can't decide whether Christian Bale is hotter dressed or undressed (you get to see him naked from the waist up, ye gods, the muscles!!) cuz those suits are just gorgeous.
Anyway, see this film. It's got anything you could possibly want: great plot with twists, compelling characters, awesome clothes, the most creative martial arts work EVER, interesting philosophical issues, a bit of romance, and even a very, very cute puppy. Oh, and did I mention Christan Bale's pecs? Hehehe.
on June 9, 2003
For action sake why this movie was so poorly received by critics? Ok, I'm a huge action fan. I love watching a movie with well-developed characters, great plot, interesting conversations but when I rent something in the action category I am expecting to see a film where the main character kicks some serious butt. Equilibrium was great! It not only satisfied my hunger to see beautifully choreographed gun battles but it also delivered likable characters and an intense plot. Christian Bale shines in his role as the cleric John Peterson. His expression is so cold, his stance with a gun in each hand exudes extreme power and fearlessness. In fact, he doesn't feel fear because he has to take Prozium, a drug that eliminates emotion. Accidentally, however, one day John misses the dose of his drug and starts feeling the world around himself like a true human. This is where the trouble starts and cool fight scenes begin.
If you are an action fan, you will love the fights in Equlibrium. I'm also a big Matrix fan and after watching Equlibrium I have to say the gun battle scenes of this movie can almost put Matrix to shame. For the love of action, do not miss this film! This film does indeed shows us something new.
on December 3, 2003
I must say, this is an excellent filmed movie and I'm disappointed in not seeing it come out in the cinemas.
(compared) to the matrix, I myself and my friends liked this one better, though I'm not saying they are the same, the matrix is completly different in storyline and plots than of Equilibrium.
The storyline is great though not original but well enhanced :P
The film is a mix of Orwell's 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and the old Metropolis. Based in a ruined dystopia world where art, music, literature, emotions and anything expressional are the causes of mankinds trouble (war love and hate) and are prohibited in the totalitatian state of Liberia which control the people with injections of prozium to make them into unemotional working zombies for Big brother who has his Grammaton Clerics busting down sense offenders who oppose the states tactics and laws.
The gun fights (gun kata) is the first I've ever seen in years in action flicks and Theres also some nice quick sword-fighting aswell. An excellent low budget film that should of made it on the screen and gotten
I recommend this film to all my friends
It will blow you away ;)
on June 27, 2004
Should be on the list of the best 100 science fiction movies ever. No exaggeration. If Hollywood spent more time promoting movies like this and less time promoting junk, we wouldn't be suffering through the two sequels to the Matrix. I enjoyed this movie so much when I saw it on satellite, I went out and bought the DVD.
I had the total displeasure of watching Star Trek Nemesis this year. (That dud should be on the list of worst movies ever.) But here's a movie that shows what a science fiction movie should be. An innovative, action-packed movie that is story and character centered. The action in this movie is something I've never seen before. It was like the director (who also wrote the script) created a new form of martial arts. I viewed it with an adult female and a teenager, and we all enjoyed it.
Me, I enjoy a good story. You could put a ton of effects and all the actors in the world, but if there's no story--like in the Matrix Sequels, the latest Star Trek movies, or any of George Lucas's recent Star Wars bombs--then I either shut if off or walk out the theater. So far there have only been a few good sci-fi movies that stand out: The Core, Spiderman, and this movie, to name a very few, and I bought all three. Meanwhile, I didn't even bother watching the last Star Wars movie when it came out on satellite.
I remember the director of The Core saying something that I've been saying for years, only he said it better, "Movies today have been hijacked by special effects." He went on to say how he wanted his actors to be the focus of the movie; and what he created was a movie where you cared for the characters. And that's also what happened in this movie.
At first you think the story is sort of ridiculous, I mean a society where having feelings is a crime; but then I thought about some of the wacky stuff going on today and how the government is in every facet of our lives, and then I thought it's not that ridiculous after all. For example, do you think someone even 50 years ago would ever imagine schools would put in metal detectors to check kids for guns?
Oh, and no wire tricks in this movie, thank God. If I see one more actor doing an acrobatic kick or jump that defies physics, I think I'd go beyond migraine. And I enjoyed the central character so much, I'm going to check out American Psycho. Okay, enough praise. Check out the movie and see if I was right.
on March 28, 2005
Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium is a good science fiction movie that went fantastically unnoticed. It is not however, in my opinion, "the best Sci-Fi movie ever", or even "better than the Matrix". Common praise, perhaps intended to raise it from its pathetically unfair obscurity. That's not to say it shouldn't be seen. Quite the contrary. Equilibrium is a movie that, from the beginning, surprises with its excellent cinematography, big-budgetesque effects, and admirable performances.
Set in post WW3, Equilibrium portrays a world fed up with violence, so fed up that they turn to imposing a drug that inhibits emotion. This, by theory, would neuter man of his violent tendencies.
Ok, I thought the setup was cool, so to were the excellent performances by Christian Bale and Taye Diggs. There were however some annoying inadequacies. Most notable was the obvious emotion shown by those characters who were supposedly emotion-suppressed. In fact, the enforcers of societies condemnation of emotion are called "grammaton clerics" (of which Christian Bale and Taye Diggs both serve), they're supposed to bring "sense-offenders" to justice (usually by bullet or baking). However, in key scenes, these clerics would carry on like a bunch of pre-menstrual high-school girls on prom night. That really hurt the immersion factor.
Another minor issue surrounded the ability of these clerics to seemingly bend time and dodge bullets. About midway through the movie they give that ability some basis, but it would have been cooler if they beefed the science of that up a bit, and did it earlier, as most viewers will probably be going "um, ok, cool outfits and all, but how come the clerics are dodging bullets, and everyone else is getting mowed"?
Minor gripes. Fact is, I went into this movie with very low expectations, and was completely blown away. I would have watched The Sound of Music in its entirety just for access to the 5 minute fight-climax at the end of the Equilibrium. Truly fantastic!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy as much as I did.
Santa Barbara, California
on January 9, 2003
To Kurt Wimmer: Thank you for introducing me to the genuinely new experience of not wanting to leave the theatre! I saw this movie 6 times (a personal first), and each time I was amazed at how I could just sit through it again!
Whenever I tell people about it, they jump in with a comparison to The Matrix, but the truth is, while both films are incredibly exciting to watch, Equilibrium makes you care about the characters in ways the other never did. We never knew why the good guys in The Matrix were drawn to fighting for their freedom, it was never explored. In Equilibrium, Wimmer DOES explore this, and Christian Bale and Emily Watson give fantastic performances that will bring tears to your eyes.
I also found Equilibrium interesting because of the commentary it makes on issues that are here today---the militarization of the police, police raids, victimless crimes, etc. (WACO would have been a lot different with a John Preston around, eh?)
The bottom line is this movie NEVER STRAYS---it's exciting, great gun-kata scenes, thought-provoking subject matter, and all of it balanced with the more human elements that keep us caring.
It's strange, but for the only time in my life I felt like I was going to miss a movie after it stopped playing. I don't think there's a greater compliment than that....
on October 24, 2006
Like so many who have reviewed this movie here, I found this movie quite by accident, having heard virtually nothing about it. After the first viewing I have watched it at least 10 times. I know that may sound excessive, and obsessive, but I feel this is perhaps one of the best science fiction movies ever made. I believe Christian Bale's performance is perhaps one of the all time best cinematic portrayals I have ever encountered. Wimmer (despite his whining directorial commentary which focused on his budget and what didn't get done rather than what did, and which can be chosen on the DVD) has transcended the typical dystopian epic by focusing on the evolution of Cleric John Preston's emergence from the sleep of his drugged existence into the life of a fully realized human being. The premise is unique. No one pushed Preston into giving up the drug - serendipity (or was it a Freudian accident?) resulted in the destruction of his "morning interval" followed by his first transgression - failure to reveal to his new partner that he has not replaced his dose. He compounds that transgression be disposing of the next day's dose while walking up a crowded staircase. We watch as four days go by and we see him emerge from the fog of Prozium. We feel with him as he experiences a cascade of new sensations. True to his former partner's prediction, he does indeed dream, and his dreams haunt him. He's dumbstruck when he watches the beauty of a sun rise. He weeps the first time he hears music. He holds back a volume of Mother Goose from a Nether raid. He cringes as he holds a dying man, watches the light go out in his eyes and feels his blood on his hands. He rescues an orphaned pup, then kills "sweepers" to protect it and himself. He opens his heart to a woman doomed to die, and remembers how he stood by in drugged numbness when his wife, Viviana, was executed as a sense offender. He vainly attempts to rescue a group of rebels. He steals into his sleeping children's bedroom at night to sit by them. He smiles with love and pride when he learns his children, Robbie and Lisa, have been off the dose since their mother was incinerated. He locates the Underground and becomes their "champion". This is a truly masterful performance by a superb actor, with a great supporting cast. The gun kata scenes are as well choreographed as a ballet. Casting was superb, location, sets and lighting were outstanding, music was fabulous. I feel it important to emphasize that I am not a kid who is simply thrilled by the violent gun kata scenes. I am a 61 year old woman who was deeply moved by Bale's riveting performance. This is far more than a simple action flick. This exceptional movie speaks to the heart.
on July 12, 2003
To be honest, I never even heard of this movie until on two separate occasions I heard people mention "grammaton cleric". At that point, I knew I was missing out on something big and decided to watch it. I'm sure glad that I did.
All good movies need plenty emotion and this one gives you just that. For the first hour there is so much tension that you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat. Not that it will make you cry or anything, but it will definitely shock you as things happen suddenly and the outcome is unpredictable. What's more, the soundtrack absolutely matches what John Preston (Christian Bale) is feeling at the moment. That in of itself is crucial to the story, as you will find out. My only complaint is the ending, which felt, for a lack of a better word, "staged", but that really didn't matter in the long run.
I'm inclined to give any movie with Emily Watson 5 stars; however this one deserves them on its own. It has great action, an interesting story, superb acting, and, unlike "Matrix: Reloaded", is fortified with enough drama to keep you interested all along the way.