In a futuristic world, a strict regime has eliminated war by suppressing emotions: books, art and music are strictly forbidden and feeling is a crime punishable by death. Cleric John Preston (Bale) is a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. When he misses a dose of Prozium, a mind-altering drug that hinders emotion, Preston, who has been trained to enforce the strict laws of the new regime, suddenly becomes the only person capable of overthrowing it.Written by
Writer and director Kurt Wimmer invented the martial arts style of gunfighting for this movie in his backyard. See more »
As the clerics raid the sense offenders' hide out, Preston removes his gloves and drops them. A few shots later he takes them off again, and when he gets home he is once again seen taking off his gloves to take the prozium. See more »
In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man's inhumanity to man - his ability to feel.
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I bought Equilibrium just because Christian Bale is in it. To tell you the truth I was certain that it was going to be a goofy, direct-to-video sci-fi fiasco that most involved would just as soon forget. The cover box reminded me of Universal Soldier. As it turns out however, it's not a movie that those involved want to forget, it's an overlooked gem, no doubt because it came at the height of the Matrix craze, which it may resemble in too many ways. Unfortunately, too many people will callously write it off as a Matrix rip-off, and it's a shame because this is one of the best science fiction films to have come along in quite some time.
It takes place in the far off 21st century, but it's not about the future (given that it exists in a future that can't ever exist), it's about the disturbing reality that war is a part of human nature, and in order to eradicate it from the modern world we would have to become a homogenized society of emotionless, drug-controlled zombies. No jokes about that already being a reality.
The movie's biggest assertion is that it assigns blame for man's inhumanity to man to his ability to feel (ignoring the real causes, such as religion, political power, and less dogmatic things like national pride and human rights). The current government is based on enforcing the mass removal of emotion from the masses using a drug called Prozium, and is the source of the movie's main irony, that in order to eradicate war, it has waged war on all of it's own citizens, who constantly live under close surveillance.
The government employs Grammaton Clerics to handle that surveillance. They are highly trained officers authorized to kill anyone they deem to be "sense offenders" on the spot ("I trust you'll be more vigilant in the future?"). There is, in fact, a staggering amount of irony in the film, given that all emotion or feeling is strictly forbidden under penalty of death, and yet anger, suspicion and fear are all alive and well, and even flaunted. It's also interesting to consider that in real life it is the dogmatic, Cleric-like believers who aspire for war, and the normal people who just want to live their lives.
For the most part the movie ignores the fact that it is governments that wage war, not citizens (even emotionally sensitive ones), but no matter. The important thing that you need to know about the movie is that it goes way, way too far, and because of that, it's fun. I cheered out loud several times during the film because the gun fights, which are so unrealistic it's almost funny, are genuinely well-choreographed and exciting. If I may say so, this is what gun fights in hard core science fiction movies should look like.
Many people criticize the movie for being unrealistic or too extreme, altogether forgetting what kind of movie they're watching in the first place. The movie is not about moral dilemmas, even though the main character suffers a tremendous one, it's a fast, gritty science fiction movie that makes no apologies, and owes none. The characterization may be just a little heavy (Bale's character going from not understanding a question about what he felt when his wife was incinerated to having a soft spot for puppies, etc.), but like another outstanding and equally over-the-top film, Shoot 'Em Up, nothing is out of place. All of the excesses look right at home.
It is interesting to consider the real-world implications of the content of the movie though, regardless of how unrealistic it is. The totalitarian regime, for example, resembles Mao Tse- tung's manner of oppression with startling closeness, even down to the children spying on and reporting their parents. Under Mao, children who reported their parents engaging in "counter'-revolutionary activities" were publicly hailed as national heroes while their parents were generally tortured and executed. Whether the crimes were real or not was unimportant, what mattered is that, as you can imagine, in a society where people were so easily made to desperately fear their own children, you can imagine the level of control the government (Mao) had over the people. Something similar happens in this movie.
The similarities to The Matrix films are obvious, but limited mostly to superficial things like the fight scenes and some costumes. Thematically, the movies are totally different, and even with all of the similarities, this movie is more than able to stand on its own, and any similarities are more just an unfortunate bit of timing, as this is probably what caused the movie to be so overlooked. If you can't handle a little excess in the movies, definitely stay away from this one. But if you can watch a movie just for a good time, you could do a lot worse than this.
Note: Keep your eye out for Dominic Purcell, Prison Break's Lincoln Burrows, in the opening scene. He should have had a bigger role in the movie...
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