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Written by Funn Lim
 

"Intriguing concept but like I said, impossible execution without shooting oneself in the leg."





Released In
2002

Cast-Character
Dominic Purcell .... Seamus
Christian Bale .... John Preston
Sean Bean .... Errol Partridge
Christian Kahrmann .... Officer in Charge
John Keogh .... Chemist
Sean Pertwee .... Father
William Fichtner .... Jürgen
Angus Macfadyen .... Dupont
David Barrash .... Evidentiary Storage Officer
Dirk Martens .... Gate Guard
Taye Diggs .... Brandt
Matthew Harbour .... Robbie Preston
Maria Pia Calzone .... Preston's Wife
Emily Siewert .... Lisa Preston
Emily Watson .... Mary O'Brien

The Plot
Taken from IMDB.com

In a futuristic world, a strict regime has eliminated war by suppressing emotions: books, art and music are strictly forbidden and feeling is a crime punishable by death. Cleric John Preston (Bale) is a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. Whe he misses a dose of Prozium, a mind-altering drug that hinders emotion, Preston, who has been trained to enforce the strict laws of the new regime, suddenly becomes the only person capable of overthrowing it.

Comments
To summarise the entire plot of this movie, it is better to state the script of one particular scene between Bale's Preston and a sense offender, Mary (Watson) ...

"Mary: Let me ask you something. Why are you alive?

John Preston: 'm alive... I live... to safeguard the continuity of this great society. To serve Libria.

Mary: It's circular. You exist to continue your existence. What's the point?

John Preston: What's the point of your existence?

Mary: To feel. 'Cause you've never done it, you can never know it. But it's as vital as breath. And without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock... ticking.
"

And of course the lines by Father, the guy you will see in big TV screen ala 1984 ...

"Prozium - The great nepenthe. Opiate of our masses. Glue of our great society. Salve and salvation, it has delivered us from pathos, from sorrow, the deepest chasms of melancholy and hate. With it, we anesthetize grief, annihilate jealousy, obliterate rage. Those sister impulses towards joy, love, and elation are anesthetized in stride, we accept as fair sacrifice. For we embrace Prozium in its unifying fullness and all that it has done to make us great."

Basically this movie is about a society that thinks by curbing emotions (the bad as well as the good) and by making its inhabitants into controlled robotic equivalents, there would be an end of all pain and suffering. The reason being emotions, which encompasses greed, ambition, remorse, guilt, love, appreciation, etc creates jealousy and all evil deeds. In that sense by taking Prozium the drug, even compassion, which is agood emotion is destroyed. Individualism is thrown out of the window for the sake of conformity. This is a society with literally zero crime except for sense offenses, those who refuses to take the drug to feel.

Frankly this plot is shooting itself in the foot.

Truth be told, I have never heard of this movie before. I am also very surprised to know that it was a profitable movie, via video rentals. I only noticed this movie when I downloaded fan made tributes to Christian Bale at avenuepotter.com entitled Here and Bond Style (the link is at the bottom of this review). I was intrigued by the Matrix like costumes and Christian Bale looking almost like Keanu Reeves.

When I watched the movie, not to my surprise, he even sounded like Keanu Reeves. I read at imdb.com of the fans' reaction to this movie and quite surprisingly many claimed this is even better than The Matrix and has a dose of originality.

If you look at The Matrix alone and as in part 1 and part 1 only, no other sci-fi-ish films can ever be better than The Matrix. The Matrix offered plausible explanations for our existence and the wierd stuff we see, it offers great stunt sequences and may I say, Keanu Reeves was believable as Neo. After watching Equilibrium, I am of course slightly convinced that perhaps Christian Bale could have been a better Neo but frankly I wouldn't trade Keanu Reeves for anybody else, even if Christian Bale is a million times better as an actor. What I am trying to emphasise is The Matrix is an original movie of its own, and Equilibrium is in itself its own movie. You can't compare both, though Christian Bale and Keanu Reeves do look alike, only in this movie.

Whilst The Matrix is logically out of this world and yet totally reconciable with everything we know and see, Equilibrium has at many scenes shot itself in the foot, as I have mentioned earlier. If that drug is supposed to suppress emotions to such a successful degree, then perhaps everybody in this movie who is taking that drug should be like Star Trek's Data. Robotic, logical, unemotional, without any feelings whatsoever. In that regard I must compliment Christian Bale for really being very consistently unemotional in the earlier scenes. My problem lies with the actor, Taye Diggs who plays his partner, Brandt and almost everybody else.

For one, if emotions are suppressed, one is therefore emotionless and without feeling, how then can Brandt be ambitious to the point of self preservation and suspiscious? How can he be cocky? Curiosity maybe but I know suspiscion when I see one. How then can Dupont, the commander in chief so to speak ever be angry and bang on the table? How can some characters register fear, doubts and anger? If everybody is supposed to be Data, how can they even remotely register anything human since we are told the drug is very successful at what it does?

If you can put away all these nagging questions and look at the performances in itself, perhaps you may be able to out aside the ridiculous plot. Of course the plot is trying to tell us something but the point to me is lost when I am more concerned about those little things. To me the backbone of this story is ridiculous. I would have preferred not a drug that suppresses emotions but rather brain washing that suppresses the interests in anything colorful and beautiful and that there are some who does not buy the "society as a whole and not as an individual" type of philosophy. Intriguing concept but like I said, impossible execution without shooting oneself in the leg.

For all my complains about the silly plot, there are a few redeeming factors that makes this movie an entertaining one to watch.

The gunfights for one. I know it's silly that Preston can stand in the middle and not be shot at but apparently there is a concept called The Gun Katas. Taken from imdb.com, the entire quote by one character about this gun katas...

"The gun katas. Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically predictable element. The gun kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents while keeping the defender clear of the statistically traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120%. The difference of a 63% increase to lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly."

Interesting? You should see it in this movie. It is silly to see the actors holding one one hand with fingers forming into gun shape but to see Christian Bale leaping, jumping, twisting and then shooting and yet miraculously not shot at is not just interesting, but believable as well. I know it's impossible but somehow it looks workable on screen. I must admit, the gun fights are stylishly filmed and very atmospheric. It is also a good thing that the actors in here looked like they can actually shoot down 50 policemen without being shot at once.

The other redeeming factor, which is a whole lot of it is the character of John Preston. With his all too serious and very dead pan looks, one wonders how he ever managed to get married and have children. I suppose he must have been paired with his wife and the children could have been conceived in the more scientific way. I can almost imagine this society as a sexless society unless of course one has sex for the purpose and the sole purpose of multiplying so to speak. Anyway the way his character changed from cold to warm, from the day he missed his one dose of Prozium quite by accident to starting a revolution is quite interestingly believable and very watchable. The story may suck but the character's progression from someone who did not have the capacity to care to someone who chose to care is very entertaining to watch. His relationship or rather non-relationship with his children, especially his Gestapo-like son, Robbie is at times scary but in the end moving without kisses or hugs. In fact I don't recall him hugging his children at all. No emotional outsbursts except for a few vital scenes. His change of heart or rather the full impact of emotions is helped by the very attractive sense offender, Mary O'Brien who ridiculously looked like she had make up, lip gloss and face powder even when incacerated in jail awaiting her execution. Since this is a society that emphasise on collective minds rather than individualism, I wonder why she was allowed to wear make up in prison. The character of Errol Partridge is interesting too, being a cleric (aka officer) but one who did not take the drug and having quite a difficult time disguising it. His scenes may be few, but when Preston shot him in the face, one can almost hate Preston for it if not for the fact that Preston didn't have the capacity to understand what he did. He just shot his friend! Of course when he did understand and he sat by the body of Partridge crying his heart out, I forgave this man. Remorse is after all punishment enough for a man who finally understood what remorse meant. One of the most moving scene, actually 2 of the most moving scenes may seem silly to some since it's so like child's play but to me it is like back to basic type of scenes. That was when Preston woke up one morning after he missed his dose and he saw sunlight shining into his room. His windows are all covered with white papers, since that is one society that does not need any appreciation for beauty to function, so there is no need for windows. He tore it and looked into the beautiful skyline and the beautiful sunlight and he was shocked at the beauty of nature before him. The other scene was when he raided a sense offender's house and there was this secret basement where there was this old I think it's called grammaphone. Anyway he played it and when the classical music was played, he was in total shock that he had to sit down for a while, crying. He had to come to terms with the emotions he is feeling and in the end, even when there were frustration, fear and tears, he decided that he liked being quite simply a human being. I love those scenes.

There are of course a few obvious scenes that are meant to make you go "Oh No!" like the burning of the Mona Lisa painting. Oh yeah, scream! Scream! Then there was the scene of dogs being shot to death and the scene concentrated only on Preston's face (reaction) as gun shots were heard. He winced, very disturbed by it and I was too. When he later on killed like 20 policemen to save the life of a dog (and he himself), frankly I didn't quite care for the other people's lives. The dog was too cute to be killed. But it was a nice scene; simplistic in its approach and effective although some may laugh at it. One other point that may have viewers laughing may be sense offenders are incinerated, literally. But they had to wear this flaming red cloak first, walk in and stand there to be burned to death. Those scenes look amateurish, some sets look cheap. I must say though the sets are meant to look dull. But all these cannot be compared with the lack of budget as seen in the policemen' costumes, basically leather with motorcycle helmet painted in black. If only this movie had more budget, perhaps the costumes may look a bit more convincing.

Perhaps the selling point of this movie is not the story or the characters or the stunts but the performances.

Never in my life have I ever thought of Emily Watson as pretty. Pretty yes but not that kind of pretty. But in this movie, as Preston looked into her huge blue eyes for the first time, and I meant really looked at her, he was besotted with her and I was too. Emily Watson has this pair of beautiful full of emotion type of eyes that speaks volume. She was pretty in that sense although her character's make up did not make sense.

I was very excited to see Sean Bean in this movie since I didn't know he was in this movie at all. Of course he could be the most prolific second liner actor ever but his few scenes were well acted with a man who knew what will happen to him and yet he continue to do what he was doing. Very good performance indeed.

Taye Diggs, a name I have never heard before was not as good. At times he faltered. He smiled too much for someone who had no emotion, no feelings and his character is a contradiction to the very basis of this movie.

Angus Macfadyen, a name I also have never really heard of was at first inconsistent but at last I realised perhaps his character may not have taken the drug so he acted the way he did. Interesting villain but frankly very little to do except to act as a really useless villain. This just made me realise perhaps Preston's biggest enemy is his unfeeling self and not other people.

Matthew Harbour plays the son. Very scary character at first but great end to his character in my opinion. I pity this child actor though; equilibrium is not an easy word to pronounce for someone his age and many times he almost wasn't quite able to say that word.

Last but not least, the only reason why this movie works and perhaps the only reason I can give you to convince you to watch this movie other than the gun katas would be Christian Bale himself. To see him this darkly handsome as opposed to painfully thin as in The Machinist was scary. What an extremist of an actor, stuck in bad movies mode. He deserves better material and perhaps The Matrix may have been more appropriate for his talent. But surprisingly he retained his dignity as an actor even in the face of ridiculous storyline and he managed to give not just depth to Preston, but actually made me care about what happens to him, and yes, the puppy also. I am beginning to re-appreciate this great talent. Why re-appreciate you ask? I forever remember him as that kid in Empire of the Sun. In some ways, Preston is a lot like that kid in Empire of the Sun. Then of course I realised he is all grown up thanks to Batman Begins. He certainly can act, and make that can act very very well. Somehow he is not more famous than he is now and he should be more famous. Maybe he should choose his movies very very carefully. Anyway, his performance in here is worth all the price of the DVD and even if you're not his fan, you will appreciate the subtlety of his performance. His face may be dead pan, but look at his eyes and you see a window to his entire being. Maybe at times he can be unreadable by facial expression, that I admit and he makes looking dead pan into an art form but look for the slight wince or slight smile. Preston is all about slight this and little that and yet very effective. I think this is certainly one of his best performances. A pity it had to be this movie. And I must mention this; what a body and he looks great in tha Bruce Lee outfit!

Verdict
Very entertaining and stylishly filmed movie that does not do it for me philosophically but certainly fulfills any viewers' wish for action, emotion and good acting. Some reviewers call this movie one of the best acted bad movie of the year and you know, I agree, totally agree. And it is very watcheable too. All thanks to the brilliant performances of the key actors in this movie, and that being first and foremost Christian Bale. Forget the story, just be entertained. Highly recommended.

Interesting Facts
I did not know two women played the same character, as in Preston's wife. You must read all about it at IMDB.com. Very interesting stuff.

Very interesting is that many reviewers like this movie, generally or that most hated it but agreed it was one of those well acted movie. Check them out at rottentomatoes.com

For screencaps from this movie, check out avenuepotter.com

For the introductory clip of this movie made by a fan (a must download by the way), check out the clips entitled HERE and BOND STYLE at avenuepotter.com. You won't regret downloading them and believe me, after watching HERE you too will rush to buy this movie. The MV made this fan was handsomely made and very stylish. In fact watching BOND STYLE convinced me that he should have been James Bond.
More stuff here in my previous post in News & Updates.


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