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Equilibrium (15)



Review: Jack Foley | Rating: 2

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s commentary; Producer and director's commentary; 'Finding Equlibrium' documentary; Trailers; TV spots; Jump To Fight; Gun Kata.

IMAGINE a world without emotion, a place in which war has been eradicated, but in which happiness, sadness, love and hate are punishable by death. This is the world depicted in Equilibrium, an intriguing, yet completely stupid, sci-fi fantasy, that combines the classic ‘what if’ scenario with the brash pyrotechnics of movies such as The Matrix.

Christian Bale stars as government official, John Preston, a keeper of the peace (or cleric) who ensures that the citizens of Librian take their daily dose of Prozium, a designer drug that stops feelings and keeps everyone on an even keel.

Refusal to take the drug is punishable by incineration, while all earthly possessions (from records and books, to copies of the Mona Lisa) are summarily destroyed.

When Preston skips his own dose of the drug, however, he unlocks a world of sensation that he never knew existed and attempts to contact the resistance, falling in love with Emily Watson’s ‘sense offender’ along the way, and placing him on a collision course with new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs), and DuPont (Angus MacFadyen), the sinister controller of Libria.

Borrowing heavily from other science fiction films, such as The Matrix, Minority Report, Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, Equilibrium gets by on raw style alone.

The film, though shot on a modest budget, looks good throughout, while its action sequences - which introduce the Gun-Kata fight form, a fast and furious combination of Western firepower and Eastern discipline of the body - are suitably impressive.

Bale cuts a suitably athletic action figure and appears comfortable in the numerous fight scenes, but struggles somewhat during the quieter moments, as do most of the cast.

For it is during the supposedly intellectual part of the movie that writer/director, Kurt Wimmer’s movie falls apart. Having created an interesting world and premise, Wimmer sets about undermining both with some quite ludicrous plot points.

Viewers are expected to believe, for instance, that Preston can remain impassive over the death of his wife, while falling for the charms of a cute little puppy, which provides the catalyst for his change of heart, while the underground which exists to usurp Librian’s rulers is, quite literally, located underground.

Also, in a film which sets out to show a lack of emotion from the start, it comes as little surprise to find that most of the principles are unaffecting - rendering it a cold and somewhat clinical affair throughout. (Watson’s potential love interest isn’t afforded the screen time necessary for viewers to care about her, thereby wasting the talents of a gifted actress).

Anyone seeking a genuinely challenging slice of science fiction, on a par with last year’s Minority Report, is therefore advised to stay away, but for those seeking a quick fix ahead of The Matrix sequels, this just about fits the bill. It is very much a triumph of style over substance but it manages to entertain in a superficial way.

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