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EQUILIBRIUM

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Angus MacFadyen, Sean Bean, Matthew Harbour, William Fichtner
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Disney/Dimension
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: May 13, 2003

“And you, Preston, the supposed savior of the resistance are now its destroyer and along with them, you’ve given me yourself…calmly…coolly…entirely without incident.”

“NO…not without incident.”

Film ***1/2

It seems in today’s moviemaking world that it is hard to create a film filled with a strong story and eye popping action and effects. Equilibrium, perhaps the most underrated movie in years, offers that exciting kind of combination. Oh, and did I mention that it was underrated? How could any studio even think to subject a movie like this to only to a small limited release when it’s clearly the perfect one to release into the mainstream market? I suppose they were afraid that it was another sci-fi knockoff of The Matrix, which does remain one of the most influential films of all time. But the fact is that Equilibrium can stand on its own ground, because every aspect of this audacious film is actually stunning and original in terms of both story and action, though the story seems a little inspired by Fahrenheit 451. I will easily note that it is unquestionably the single best sci-fi action movie since The Matrix.

Set in the not so distant future, the movie tells of a society that is completely different from the one we know. As it turns out, a third world war had broke out, and, as strange as it may seem, it was ignited as a result of the human mind spiraling way out of control. But order and society were soon restored, but our way of living would be altered greatly. To guarantee world safety, all kinds of emotions or “feeling”, as it is referred to, have been outlawed. Citizens are required to take repeated injections of a drug known as Prozium, which shuts off emotions and prevents any human from feeling. The overall ruler of this Totalitarian-like society is a dictator simply referred to as “The Father”.

As for law enforcement, a new breed has been created, a force known as the Grammaton Cleric. This new breed of force is given one purpose; to eliminate any engaged in feeling or display of emotion, who are also known as “sense offenders”. If sense offenders aren’t taken down on the spot, they are instead arrested and soon incinerated, which is the overall punishment. The top enforcer of the Cleric is John Preston (Christian Bale, creating an ever so strong presence), a man whose superior is impressed by his work, mostly because Preston sets the prime example of not feeling, even when haunted by memories of his wife, who had been arrested for sense offending.

After having no choice but to take out his partner, who had confiscated a literary artifact, which is also considered illegal, Preston is given a new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs), who seems eager to achieve the exact same status as Preston. A chance encounter with a woman named Mary (Emily Watson), who’s been arrested for sense offending, persuades Preston to do the unthinkable. In a sudden decision, he decides to deliberately stop taking his Prozium, wanting to feel everything around him, while at the same time concealing from fellow Clerics. It’s only a matter of time until the increasingly suspecting Brandt, or any Cleric for that matter, discovers Preston’s agenda and threaten to expose him.

As intriguing as the story is, and it’s a rarity that a sci-fi movie can be laced with such ideas, the action sequences in Equilibrium just about manage to surpass with stunning choreography and all out execution. A technique used amongst the Cleric is known as “Gun-Kata”, a unique form of martial arts that is based around guns. When Preston is in action, he executes countless maneuvers and stunts that will truly make your jaw hit floor. Watching it was like being reminded of the first time I saw The Matrix, where I was jolted with amazement at what I was seeing. I don’t even want to hit as to what is pulled off in this movie, but the opening scene, where Preston bursts through a darkened room to duel with sense offenders who have stolen pieces of art, should indicate what is to come in following scenes. I was most appreciative of the fact that no slow motion was used in any of the fight scenes, which truly helps in making it look nothing like The Matrix, which too many other movies have tried to do.

Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, Equilibrium is right up there with Minority Report and The Matrix in terms of being a unique science fiction adventure. It also gets credit for an imaginative and provocative story, filled with endless ideas, the best example since Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca. This is a complete knockout, and new underrated classic that must be seen by both fans of action and science fiction.

Video ***1/2

Like all futuristic movies, Equilibrium carries with it a distinctive look and atmosphere, and this anamorphic offering from Dimension does immense justice to this notion. The movie also has a good number of technical touches, such some nicely done angle shots, etc. The detail and sharpness of the picture is evident throughout, if you’ll forgive it for having a brief instance or two of slight grain. Other than that, a nicely done presentation.

Audio ****

You’ll wanna pump up the volume for this one, as the 5.1 mix is just as explosive as the movie is.  The dynamic range is practically endless, and when the action takes center stage, you may be astonished to discover just how strong and mind blowing the performance actually is. In other scenes, the sound quality is still in full effect, as dialogue is delivered to a maximum clarity, and certain set pieces offer superb usage of front and rear channels. A marvelous sounding disc, indeed!

Features ***

Included are two commentary tracks; one with writer/director Kurt Wimmer and the second with Wimmer and producer Lucas Foster. In addition, there is a brief, but good enough featurette titled “Finding Equilibrium”, and bonus trailers, including a trailer for the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill.

Summary:

Equilibrium is simply the best display of sci-fi action since The Matrix, which should be the only comparison. Fueled by a strong story, terrific characters, and mind-blowing action, it is sure to earn a cult status which, from my perspective, has already begun!