Bale Bales on the Future
On one hand "Equilibrium" bores me; I'm bored of movies which feature a dystopian future where a government is making everyone's life a misery. But then on the other hand this future world where feeling is repressed by daily drugs is quite clever and features action which can only be described as Matrix-esque in style which makes it surprisingly entertaining. It even manages to draw you in to the story of Feeling Officer John Preston and you wonder what will happen in the end, as in will he save certain people, be discovered and so on serving up twists which don't let you down. As such "Equilibrium" does a reasonable job of entertaining with its idea of a future where feelings are outlawed and an elite force destroy those who chose to have feelings and own such contraband items which cause feelings.
Following a Third World War it is decided that the emotions are the cause of war and in order to eliminate war the freedom to feel must be suppressed with those renegades who chose not to comply and have contraband goods such as books and records being exterminated. Grammaton Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale - Captain Corelli's Mandolin) is one of the top enforcement officers whose job it is to destroy all contraband and those who refuse to take a daily injection to suppress their emotions. But when he accidentally misses a dose he finds himself discovering a new and confusing world where he has emotions but somehow has to hide this fact from those who would kill him if they knew.
So as already mentioned "Equilibrium" is another one of those movies which paint a grim picture of the future, a future where following a third world war the freedom to have feelings is outlawed as those who rule decide feelings are behind mankinds self destruction. Now I'm just a little bored of these movies which paint a dystopian future for the simple reason that they always seem to be a government who have messed up society by their dictatorial rule. Yes the symbolism in "Equilibrium" which obvious mirrors that of Hitler and the Nazi's is semi clever but on one level it is just another futuristic movie where we have misery thanks to the government and a bunch of renegades fighting oppression.
But get beyond this and there is some intelligence to "Equilibrium" especially that the oppression comes from suppressing feelings as it is seen as the cause of conflict and mankind's destruction. And as we watch John Preston initially forget to take his daily drug and experience emotion for the first time it does become interesting. It delivers some interesting scenarios where he tries to keep up the masquerade of being emotionless as he goes about his job yet battles to hide the feelings which are so alien to him. You just have to smile when it is the discovery of a dog which almost blows his cover, as he can't bear to see it exterminated.
What also helps "Equilibrium" is that it twists and turns and whilst it sets up the cliche element of John being the saviour of the renegades as he is the only one who can stop the Father's dictatorial rule it also throws up some surprises. It's because of these surprises, these twists which end up lifting "Equilibrium" into becoming something genuinely exciting and more that just will he or won't he help the renegades regain control.
Now in lesser hands "Equilibrium" could have been quite dull but writer and director Kurt Wimmer brings a touch of the "Matrix" to it. Not in the sense that not is all that it seems but when it comes to the action it has that same snappy, punchy feel to it. Scenes which see John take down both renegades and officers with some fancy moves and a lot of gun action may feel a bit like an imitation but they are exciting. And Wimmer embellishes the action nicely, advancing the style which we witnessed in "The Matrix" so it adds something new to it, something as simple as the way John's guns reload during battle. But it is not all about the action and Wimmer uses the snappy action to punctuate the drama of the story rather than it just being what bad ass move John will do next.
That "Matrix" styling also comes to the actual look of the future and in particular the slick hair and long coat of Christian Bale as John Preston. But what is interesting is the harshness of this look softens in tune with when he starts to feel emotions again. Aside from this Christian Bale does a solid job of making John interesting, allowing us to understand the confusion and fear he feels when for the first time he feels emotion. It's not the deepest of characters but it works especially when it comes to the action scenes. And to be honest whilst "Equilibrium" also features Sean Bean, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs and Angus MacFadyen it is Bale who really drives this movie forwards, with maybe the exception of young Matthew Harbour who is terrific and quite scary as John's emotionless son.
What this all boils down to is that as Dystopian movies go "Equilibrium" isn't that bad. Behind the obviousness of a miserable future where renegades try to over throw a dictatorial government there is some cleverness and whilst it is obvious that John Preston will be some form of saviour characters there are plenty of twists before we even get close to that outcome. It is very Matrix-esque in style and the action is one of the highlights of the movie but it does have the solid storyline to back it up and stop it just from becoming another futuristic action movie.