3. Equilibrium (2002)

Shooting Fascism in the face

Directed by: Kurt Wimmer
Written by: Kurt Wimmer

Starring: Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Emily Watson.

While 2002 had people crawling to Spiderman and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium flopped at the box office and got lost in mixed reviews. But despite this, Equilibrium delivers a story with smarts and fires more guns than you could ask for in an average action flick. Think 1984 meets The Matrix bullet dodging.

Set in a dystopic 21st century, Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) works for a government that controls society using a drug called Prozium which suppresses human emotion. The logic behind this is that since war and violence are products of deep emotions and passions, having no feelings at all will eventuate in world peace (what every Miss. America wants). But as a result, anything that inspires feelings are destroyed by law and anyone who harbours such items, such as artwork, books, and even nostalgic knick-knacks, are executed. So when John Preston rediscovers the beauty of feeling (a crime for which his wife got burnt to a crisp), the regime must scour through its own ranks before he brings about their demise.

Take that Facism!

On the surface, Equilibrium doesn’t seem original in that we’ve all seen what Facism choking freedom looks like. 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and any movie dealing with authoritarian governments have expressed the same kind of parnoid fear and terror that our history books have taught us. But what clearly defines Equilibrium is the immediacy, urgency and intimacy that it attaches to freedom  – that is, our feelings being at stake. With visual attention to detail, there’s a sensuality to John Preston’s slow but steady appreciation of human emotion that makes clear the importance of freedom – a representation of injustice and the need for change that is a little more imaginative and visually interesting than other evil regime-ridden films.

While the editing can look a little rusty at times (the fast-moving limbs of Christian Bale need some retouching), and the ending feels too easily resolved,  it is the concept behind Equilibrium and expert directing on Wimmer’s part that lifts the film from the predictable ashes of past freedom-fighting movies.


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