Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, back to tell you about a dystopian country where feelings are not allowed, Sean Bean, does what he does best, and people are not able to shoot each other because of angles.
Equilibrium is a 2002 science fiction film starring Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs and Emily Watson. Now, don’t get me wrong when you read this review. I really enjoyed the film. The film feels oddly prescient for the time we are in now. The action is really good and all of the performances are engaging. But I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t over think this by a million degrees. So just because I am pointing out inconsistencies and giant plot holes doesn’t mean I didn’t like it or that you shouldn’t watch it.
Fair warning that there will be spoilers ahead. I mean, this was made in 2002 so I think the expiration date on that warning is a bit old but I can’t continue the review in good conscience without mentioning that.
It’s the early twenty first century and world war three has just happened. I should mention this film is fiction. A dystopian society much like you would find in 1984 or A Brave New World or even Fahrenheit: 451 has developed. I should reiterate that this film is fiction. As a result, there is a menacing and vaguely defined police force that is cracking down on insurgents for doing such things as looking at art, loving one another, and reading poetry. I should again mention that this film is actually fictional. It was made eighteen years ago but a lot of this film feels like right now is feeling. And it was even more striking when the villain, who turns out to be leading the whole thing says this, “…it is not the message that is important, it is our obedience to it.” He says this to get a law enforcement officer (Christian Bale) to commit an unlawful act. So yeah, spot on to how this moment in America is right now. But let me remind you, this film is fictional.
Enough with my tangent, on with the plot. The whole idea of this society is that we need to suppress our human emotions chemically, to maintain peace. It’s illegal to feel anything at all and those who break this rule are subject to imprisonment and ultimately death. Christian Bale plays John Preston, a “Grammaton Cleric” who is trained in advanced weaponry and fighting skills. It’s his job to seek out and bring to justice, “Sense Offenders”, who are basically anyone that feels an emotion. Preston is good at his job and is ruthless about meting out his twisted version of justice, up to and including, burning the Mona Lisa and killing his partner for reading a volume of Yeats poems in the first ten minutes. R.I.P. Sean Bean. Again. He’s really good at getting killed in the first act of anything isn’t he?
Preston’s back story is tragic because his wife who seems to have loved him, was executed by the same police force he works for. He has since dedicated his life to stamping out all those who feel emotion and is very good at spotting anyone who does. But, he ends up missing a dose of his emotion suppressing drug and starts to feel. Meanwhile, Taye Diggs, who plays Andrew Brandt, a replacement Cleric for Sean Bean’s character, is starting to suspect something is up with Preston. There is a bit of cat and mouse and Preston does some things he’s later not proud of. He ends up meeting Mary O’brien who is played by Emily Watson. It turns out she was dating the Sean Bean character. Preston brings her in but his world view is starting to change.
The movie continues with a bit of action, some subterfuge, some back and forth and lots of gun violence and slick action sequences. In the end, we of course want to see Preston beat “Father” who is the man behind the totalitarian regime. We also want to see Preston show some emotion to his own children. I won’t tell you quite how we get those answers but I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to just say the good guys generally win.
There is also this stark contrast from the beginning of the film, full of drab and dark colors, including the uniform the Clerics wear, that changes at the end when Preston dons a white suit, because, you know, good guy and all.
As enjoyable as the film was, I still wanted to know a few things.
- Okay, so emotion is bad but even these Clerics go around talking about being proud or feeling guilt or whatever. The also say things like good morning. Good is pretty subjective and an emotion could be attached there so are these Clerics just exempt or what? It doesn’t seem like it since they have to take the drugs too. How do they define emotion? I didn’t see the consistency here at all.
- The Clerics are specially trained to be total killers. They go through this rigorous program and are able to beat hordes of people shooting at them. How do they do this? Because they train to counter the angles of gunfire that are most probable to come at them. Essentially the point is that they would use probability and physics to best their opponents. While that sounds and looks really cool, uh I have a question here. Has no one ever killed one of these guys because they held their gun at a weird angle, got off a random shot accidentally, or you know, found out this secret method of training that seems to happen in the middle of the public and like, lowered their gun by three degrees? I mean really, it seemed to me that maybe James Bond wouldn’t have a shot at killing these guys but what about Mr. Magoo? How did that Cleric die? The guy couldn’t see that well so he shot at a 34 degree angle and well, what can you do about that am I right?
- My next question is about the emotion suppressing drug. How the heck did they get that formula so perfect? It seems to be an absolutely identical injection for every human taken at the exact same time. No one has a weird reaction to this? Not a single person feels no effect from this? Heck, we can’t even give Tylenol to the entire human population without huge problems for a good portion of people so, whoever made that drug, give them a raise.
- Back to the Cleric emotion thing, there is one point where Taye Diggs’ character and Christian Bale’s character are facing off in a fight, in front of the head honcho of the dystopia. Diggs, great actor that he is, is clearly angry during the whole kerfuffle. I mean no question from his body language and what he says. How did he not get fired for that?!?! I mean that is an emotion! Anger is an emotion, so what the heck. And to believe the dictator here, what he wants is to stomp out these negative emotions that caused war in the past. I can’t say for certain how WWIII starts in this because they don’t say but I bet you anger was involved. Come on evil megalomaniac if you are gonna make that big a stink about reading poetry, get rid of people getting mad too.
- Christian Bale lives in this drab apartment with no decorations on the walls and no sheets or blankets or pillows on his bed. They show him at least twice sleeping on his bicep. So, uh, are pillows just to emotional in this world or what? Like, no you can’t have a pillow because you will cause a war if your neck is comfortable. Burn that.
- There are a ton of hidden rooms in this movie. Preston is really good at looking at or feeling a wall and punching through to find like a secret room with all kinds of art. Who built this stuff? I mean how do you get a secret contractor so you can build a room where you look at art and play a phonograph? Vinyl was really in during this whole movie too btw.
- My last questions get kind of involved and give a bit of a spoiler for the end so again be warned before you read on. The guy who was supposed to be Father is really a sort of simulation that is run by another guy we have seen earlier in the film. This guys plan is to get Preston to start to feel something so that he would be able to join the resistance so that he can get to the resistance to wipe them all out. So Preston does do that, then they trick Preston into coming to where this guy is in a ruse to make it seem like the resistance wants Preston to kill Father. But it turns out that Father brought Preston there so he could kill Preston, knowing that a. Preston is deadly and b. there are still members of the resistance out there. I have two questions about this. First, wasn’t there a freaking simpler way to get to the resistance? You had a woman who was taken prisoner you could have just let her go and then followed her. Pretty sure you could have found them then. Secondly, why would you bring Preston to you to kill him? I mean Taye Diggs’ character had like thirty-seven opportunities to just shoot him at point blank range. Why do that though, when you can bring him to your bunker so that he can just mow through all your dudes and kill you right? I mean, I guess that’s what we needed for the movie to happen? Classic bad guy stupid move and in my opinion it takes what was a smart movie and makes it dumber than it should be.
All that being said, there was some sweet, sweet sword fighting going on, so all good.
I hope you are all staying safe out there and that you enjoyed this review. If you want to feel like you are living in the film, you know, turn on the news. The film is better though, it’s fictional.
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