Equilibrium borrows heavily from other sources ranging from Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and Metropolis. Surprisingly, the film itís being compared to the most, The Matrix, has probably the least influence. Although itís easy to see why that particular comparison is being made, as any film with people in black trench coats nowadays is compared to The Matrix.
Set later in the 21st Century, after the Third World War it was decreed that the reason behind war and destruction is that man has emotions and has the ability to feel. To ensure world peace and harmony, feelings have been outlawed and the population keeps their feelings suppressed with a drug called Prozium.
Everything that provokes emotion is outlawed Ė music, paintings, art, books, poetry and so on, even to the extent of decorated rooms and the like. People who break the law and have feelings are called Sense Offenders and risk the only penalty for any infraction of the law, which is death by incineration Ė no exceptions.
The law is enforced by Clerics, who have the mandate to execute Sense Offenders if they resist arrest. Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) is one of the most efficient and lethal enforcers on the force, helped by his extrasensory abilities to detect Offenders and his skilled advanced training in Gun-Kata.
Gun-Kata is a form of martial arts based around the use of guns, a discipline that increases lethality and efficient to enable a Cleric to become a more efficient killer (and looks really cool!).
Through a series of events, Preston misses his daily dose of the suppressant drug, Prozium and starts to feel. He decides to keep a book of poetry, confiscated from some Sense Offenders, and tells his new partner, Cleric Brandt (Taye Diggs), that he is keeping it to better understand the enemy.
Soon Preston realises that there might be more to fear from not being able to feel Ė and what if his colleagues realise that he could be on his way to becoming a Sense Offender.
Equilibrium could have been a mindless action flick but there is some deep thinking and good statements tucked away amongst the mayhem. The story line is very strong albeit borrowing heavily from Fahrenheit 451 and other dystopian novels and films.
Performances are surprisingly good even from the supporting cast. Sean Beanís turn as Prestonís original partner is touching although short-lived. Also Emily Watson as a Sense Offender who has an impact on Preston is great and really brings her role into play. Angus MacFayden is okay as a high ranking politician, but in all honesty his role is fairly limited. Taye Diggs is very entertaining as the Cleric who is out to reveal Preston for what he really is. Christian Bale outdone himself as Cleric Preston and itís a much more complex role than he normally plays. Seeing him struggle with feelings, when he is supposed to have none, is great. Itís a good contrast to watch him fight though the emotion and worry, and yet remain completely calm whilst cutting a swathe through many faceless enemies. There are some great scene where Preston breaks down when he hears music for the first time and seeing him struggle with his humanity when a puppy is about to be culled, knowing that any emotion that he shows would result in death.
Itís a shame that Equilibrium might slip by unnoticed against cinema heavyweights such as The Matrix and the like, but its well worth checking out. Director Kurt Wimmer has managed to take the relatively small budget and made the film look a lot more expensive. Itís a gem of a movie and one that should not be missed.
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