My Favourite Movies: Equilibrium
I watched this movie for at least the 5th time over the Christmas break but still remained in two minds whether I should add it to my favourite movies list. After weighing the pros and cons I decided (just) that it made the grade.
The story is a familiar one. In the 21st century, after a devastating nuclear war, the survivors decide that humanity cannot afford to fight a 4th World War so outlaw what they see as the underlying cause of all conflict – strong emotion. To do this each and every citizen needs to take a drug (Prozium) every day to suppress the emotions. Also everything that is designed to provoke a strong emotional response – music, art, literature – is marked for destruction. Those who refuse to take their meds or deliberately ‘use’ art or music are labelled sense offenders and are hunted down by clerics of the New Order. As with any oppressive state there is inevitably a resistance and, equally inevitably, a desire to see it destroyed. Enter the states greatest weapon – Cleric John Preston (played by Christian Bale) – who dedicates his life to finding banned items and eliminating sense offenders. But there is a wrinkle – when he accidentally misses his daily drug dose he starts to feel emotions and slowly comes to realise that the society he is fighting for is hugely mistaken in its approach. He becomes appalled at what he is called on to do and resolves that rather than destroy the resistance he will become its greatest champion. But of course it’s never going to be that simple……
This was one of those films I liked in parts rather than for the whole. Despite the fact that it was highly derivative – in particular referencing 1984, Brave New World and The Matrix – it still maintained a nice ‘feel’ throughout most of its 107 minutes. Bale was reasonably well cast as the largely emotionless
Preston as he wasn’t
required to emote that much or that often (never one of his strong points in
anything I’ve seen him in). The script was reasonable and reasonably convoluted
to keep my attention and it introduced the intriguing idea of the gun kata – a
sort of firearm martial art using science to predict the maximum kill and
minimal possibility of being hit by an opponent’s weapon. On the face of it a
great idea but likely to be total fantasy – it did produce some great fight
scenes however where Preston killed multiple
enemies on multiple occasions without it feeling too silly (though they pushed
the envelope quite a bit).
As to the things I didn’t like about it I probably have just as many reasons why I liked it. After watching it many times I still find the story disjointed, poorly scripted in places or actually badly edited. To me some scenes seemed out of sequence and more than a little confusing and I don’t think it was just me getting lost in the plot – I didn’t think it was that difficult to follow to be honest. Some of the acting was pretty dire especially
Preston’s nemesis Brandt (played by Taye
Diggs). For someone supposedly on Prozium he sure did emote a lot! I also thought
that the ending was particularly poor with the resistance raising up at the
last moment and overwhelming the bad guys (I’m not giving very much away here
honest!). It seemed to me that their actions pretty much made anything Preston did moot to say the least.