For those who missed out on this action-packed cult classic from 2001, Equilibrium is now on Netflix. If you’re a fan of the Matrix but wished that it had less colour, a lower budget, and just as many fight scenes, then this is the movie for you.
The world of Equilibrium could have been the dystopian lovechild of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, and features both a Big Brother figure known as “Father” and a rampaging government agency hell-bent on incinerating works of art and those who love them. The film stars Christian Bale as John Preston, a Grammaton Cleric who works for the government (of what is seemingly the world’s only country) in an effort to put down the resistance that threatens to overthrow it.
Bale and his partner, played by Sean Bean, are special agents who thwart any attempts at change and the evoking of emotion in the populace, art of any kind being strictly verboten. Of course, in order for the masses to go along with this the government has provided everyone with an infinite supply of emotion-killing drugs to promote same-ness and uphold order. This premise lends some logic to the fact that the settings are drab and grey and the cars ceased to evolve esthetically beyond the 1980s or early ’90s.
The world of Equilibrium is not without style, however, for while the citizens lack colour in their wardrobe choices they make up for it in their sharp design. Not only that, the clerics use a fighting technique called gun kata (AKA gun-fu these days) that is a lot of fun to watch. It isn’t long before John Preston decides to quit the medication and join the rebels, which is when the action really picks up. Fights are well choreographed and quite stylized, with Bale surviving against improbable odds on a number of occasions. (In fact, if you check out moviebodycounts.com, John Preston is still number 3 for most on-screen kills in a film).
Of course, Equilibrium is not without its flaws. The movie occasionally waffles between taking itself a little too seriously and then forgetting its premise entirely. In a world where anyone expressing any emotion gets thrown into a furnace without a second thought, flat-out running in public would probably shorten your life dramatically. Also, the term “sense offender” is a little too jarring to be funny, but somebody clearly liked the pun.
I found the movie deserved 4 out of 5 stars, but found its rough edges more apparent on the rewatch. Still, it’s highly entertaining despite being more than 15 years old (if you don’t mind the genre) and has just enough thought and atmosphere behind it to justify its occasional navel-gazing.
**** / *****
- I praised the wardrobe design, but they’ve clearly been inspired by a certain fascist regime. See also: zeppelins, ranks upon ranks of brainwashed soldiers, and a modified swastika that is symmetrical from almost any angle (a highly symbolic symbol).
- Spoiler alert: Those hoping to see Sean Bean make it to the credits will be disappointed, again. Still, he is apparently not the most-killed man in cinema.
- Puppies? Really? It’s like these guys are emotionally dead inside…
- Nothing says cult credit like a 38% critic rating and an 81% audience rating: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/equilibrium/