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Movies Kelly Parks Review by
Kelly Parks
Equilibrium
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
EQUILIBRIUM - 2002
Blue Tulip / Miramax / Dimension Films
Rated: USA: R

How do they do it? Again and again, Hollywood makes the wrong decision. Sometimes they spend millions on production and advertising for movies so bad that people in the audience actually lose the will to live and the ushers have to carry out the corpses (I've seen it happen). And sometimes (rarely) a really good movie somehow gets made and appears in theatres, but hardly anyone sees it because the studios decide not to advertise it. I mean, what the hell?!

EQUILIBRIUM was written and directed by Kurt Wimmer (SPHERE). It almost made a bad first impression because it opens with some narration AND text (I know how to read! NEVER read to me!) on the screen, but it's over quickly and turns out to be part of a speech being given to the people of Libria by their great leader, a man referred to as Father. We are some indeterminate time in the future, after a nuclear WWIII. Civilization has barely survived and the survivors have decided that no price is too high to avoid another war. This society is based on the idea that war and all other human vices are a result of our lack of control over our emotions. That's why everyone, every day, takes a Prozac-like drug to keep them from feeling anything. The citizens aren't quite robots but their range of emotions is very narrow.

Father
OUR SOCIETY IS GOING TO BE LIKE A BUNCH OF LITTLE FONZIES. AND WHAT IS FONZIE? HE'S COOL. AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE. COOL.

But no society is perfect. There are these troublemakers who avoid taking their government prescribed meds just so they can feel. Selfish bastards! That's when the SWAT teams show up, lead by the clerics.

The clerics are trained from childhood to be emotionless and ruthless and experts in a unique martial art that centers on the gun, making them badass mo fos like you would not believe. We see just such a raid and watch as armor covered police men shoot it out with "sense criminals". Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale: AMERICAN PSYCHO, REIGN OF FIRE, BATMAN BEGINS) and fellow cleric Earl Partridge (Sean Bean: DON'T SAY A WORD, GOLDENEYE, LORD OF THE RINGS: Fellowship Of The Ring) arrive wearing vaguely priest-like black outfits. Preston alone enters a room full of armed sense criminals and, well, kills them all.

A search of the premises turns up a variety of paintings including the original Mona Lisa. Art, films, music, etc. have all been forbidden because of their ability to evoke feelings (their "emotional content" rating is said to be too high). Preston orders the paintings burned and men with flamethrowers (set at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, I believe) do just that.

The clerics head out of the "nethers" (the outer regions of the city, still in ruins) into the Stalinesque city center where the face of Father (who reminded me of my Big Brother) talks to the masses from the sides of buildings and zeppelins. Preston notices that his partner has taken a book of poetry, which he assures Preston he will destroy personally because sometimes the evidence teams miss things, but we can see where that's going.

Equilibrium

Preston's new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL [1999], THE WAY OF THE GUN) shares Preston's ability to sense people who are feeling emotions, making them both emotionless empaths and thus very good at finding sense criminals. They drive around in a cool cleric car and I'm pretty sure their license plate reads THX1138.

Preston is a single father, his wife having been incinerated for sense crimes a few years earlier. His young son and daughter are as emotionless as he is. When Preston comes home from the raid his son mentions having seen a schoolmate crying and asks his father if he should report it. "Unquestionably," says Dad. I had something similar happen to me once, back in 1984.

Equilibrium
Ah yes, all is well, until an odd set of circumstances makes Preston miss an injection or two and suddenly he finds himself . . . caring about things. And once he starts, he doesn't want to stop, especially after he meets (and by meets, I mean arrests) the very passionate Mary O'Brian (Emily Watson: RED DRAGON).

In a similar fashion, I don't ever want to stop the

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
The only small quibble I have is how fast this anti-emotion drug seems to wear off. Drugs like Prozac or lithium take a long time to build up in your system and a long time to wear off. You'd think that would be a major consideration in the State's drug of choice here. Using a drug that wears off in less than 24 hours means the entire populace is just a day’s delayed drug shipment away from revolution.

!!! UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!
Since this would also spoil the movie for you, all info on this can be found at the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT page. Warning, there are spoilers at UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT/Equilibrium.

Equilibrium

This is a bleak but believable world. Surviving a nuclear war could leave people so emotionally shattered that they'd be willing to accept anything that would keep it from happening again: and a drugged and obedient populace is every dictator's dream. But we aren't Vulcans and humans simply can't contain their passions for long, drugs or no drugs. This society may work for a while, but it is inherently unstable. The only reason it has lasted this long is because of the kick ass clerics. The action sequences are very well done and the cool idea of a martial art based on guns absolutely rocks!

And yes, as I hinted above, the story borrows from Ray Bradbury's FARENHEIT 451, George Orwell's 1984 and George Lucas' THX-1138 with maybe a touch of THE MATRIX here and there. But that's not a bad thing. The end result is that rare combination of an intellectually appealing storyline and a very cool action flick. I give EQUILIBRIUM four shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

Equilibrium (2002) on IMDb Bookmark and Share

To everyone's surprise (except the fans) stores were selling out of this title upon release and there was a mad scramble to quickly order more - which meant a mad scramble to make more. If your local store is sold out, you can buy EQUILIBRIUM here!

Dimension Films did the bare minimum to support this movie (which was in the can since 2000), despite the raves of those very few, so far, who have seen it (including Ebert and Roeper to name a few). I can find no trailer on this film (Never saw one on TV or in the theaters). Perhaps Dimension wants to save their money for their next Direct to Video CHILDREN OF THE CORN, HALLOWEEN, HELLRAISER, HIGHLANDER, or SCARY MOVIE sequel.

Maybe they just bought the franchise rights, and are - right now - preparing a sequel to the "fabulous" MASTER OF DISGUISE!

Or maybe, just maybe, they are worried that the Republican party (former party of small government but now the flip-faced major "liberal" embracer of massive, intrusive, bug-yer-telephone and spy on you for your own good government) will view this movie that slams "Big Government" (and makes heroes out of terrorists) with a vengeful eye.

Who knows?

But has anyone forgot that the U.S.A. was founded by men who were considered terrorists by King George?

And on that note, notice the standard Hollywood cliché of the supremo bad guys in this film all having British accents. There is just something that sounds inherently evil in a non-rhotic proper British accent.

But before all you UK'ers out there get in a huff, the reason for my feeling may be due to all those Hammer films I grew up on. Christopher Lee was one sinister dude! And Peter Cushing in Star Wars exuded cold calculating evil!


TRIVIA
Christian Bale & Emily Watson also starred together in METROLAND (1997)

Emily Watson (Mary O'Brian) & Angus MacFadyen (Master Cleric) starred together in CRADLE WILL ROCK (1999 - NOT a musical)

Producer Jan de Bont also produced MINORITY REPORT, which was made after EQUILIBRIUM but released earlier in the same year - 2002. Though the movies were made by two different film companies, the same lead visual SFX people worked on both.
Jamie Baxter
Charles Darby
Kim Lavery

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