Feelings are so complicated. They drive us into doing the strangest things. Some prefer to follow their feelings; others assert that logic is the way to go. But I suppose it could be argued that your feelings dictate where your logic will go.
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You hear people say it all the time: "If we all had the same opinions, this world would be a pretty dull place." All the debates, all the logic in the world hasn't led us to any one singular, perennial truth about anything. What makes us different is not that the other guys are wrong, but that they feel differently. You can't always prove that the other guy is wrong, but so long as he is wrong according to your version of the truth, that's all you have. And that's all you need. No sense in trying to take his version of the truth away from him.
From what I've seen, the harshest debates out there usually come down to one fundamental question: At what point does it become necessary to control other people? Myself, I look at that question and want to instantly answer "Never". But even I know that, depending on the effect that said "people"'s actions have on others, it can vary. It should be unanimous that child molesters, terrorists, and rapists do need to be controlled, because their actions affect others negatively. But for some reason, there is a mindset out there that want to extend the control over to homosexuals, whose actions have no negative effect on others. And of course, then you have cases where the effect depends on too many random factors, such as smokers. Do they need to be controlled? Ask 100 people, you'll get 100 different answers.
Play around with logic all you want, but in the end, logic is feeling's lapdog. It only goes where feeling tells it to. Otherwise, the "right" side would have won by now. The very existence of law demands that there actually BE a right side, but even law itself won't convince anyone that his feeling is the "wrong" one.
But then, what if we just took feelings out of the picture? What if everyone took a daily dosage of some chemical that were able to render them devoid of all emotion? It would eliminate all conflict, it would stop all the fighting, it would stop us from worrying, it would cure the broken heart. The very trigger itself would vanish. You know what I think scares people most about such a society? It sounds like that's what Heaven would be like.
Well, that's the world of Equilibrium. World War III has left Earth a complete mess, and all that remains is a small population that managed to save itself by killing the trigger. People in this world have no particular preferences about anything; they wander through their lives like robots, slaves to a Law headed by a nameless "Father". In essence, they got what they paid for -- a peaceful society, free of tragedy.
People who are caught feeling are branded "sense offenders", and are quickly hauled off to be incinerated. Seriously. It's harsh. John Preston (Christian Bale), a top-ranking Cleric (enforcer of the law) was once the husband of a sense offender, but under the influence of Prozium (the anti-feeling drug), when the cops come to take her away, he doesn't feel inclined in the least bit to defend her. As far as he's concerned, she was breaking the law, and she got what she deserved.
It's almost too obvious what's going to happen, but that doesn't dilute its effectiveness at all. John misses a dose of Prozium one day, but figures he can get by without it. That is, until he has a nightmare of his wife's death sentence, which he himself stood by and watched happen without even so much as flinching. Well, this time he's definitely flinching, let me tell you. The thing about feeling is, when you feel a certain way strongly enough, you also feel a kind of "allegiance" to that feeling. John realizes the incredible pain that feeling causes, and the logical solution would be to pump the Prozium a.s.a.p. But he doesn't do it, because he feels he "owes" it to his wife, maybe even to himself, to feel.
The other great thing about feeling is our ability to conceal it. That ability is as relevant in life as the ability to feel itself, perhaps even moreso. Not because we despise our feelings, but because our feeling of caring is stronger. We care enough not to reveal them and hurt someone else. Of course, sometimes you slip up. The funny thing about John's concealing his feelings is that he must do it for an entirely different reason.
The ironic thing about the film, and this too is something you'll probably be expecting, is that in spite of its setting being largely devoid of feeling, it is quite an eye-opener as to how many things can actually be triggers for feeling. Seemingly insignificant things we take for granted, such as a frame on a mirror or a painting. I sure won't argue with the film's notion that beauty itself is one of the most powerful catalysts for feeling.
Now probably the last thing in the world you're expecting from a film like this is ACTION. Well, all I can say is brace yourself, because the action in this movie is indescribable. I remember some movie once where a Japanese guy was talking about how there was an art to sword fighting, and there is no such art to fighting with a gun. Well, consider THAT one debunked.
It seems our Clerics have been imbued with this odd ability to mathematically, in an instant, work out exactly which angle to fire bullets for maximum damage against their opponents. It would be so easy to say "bullshit", but given their otherwise robotic nature, it's not that much of a reach. Just wait 'til you see Christian Bale take out six guys with two guns to save the life of a puppy dog and then tell me you don't believe every second of it, or at least want to with every bit of spiritual yearning you have left. Despite "fair judgment", there is a damn good reason why it says "Forget The Matrix!" on the DVD cover!
Christian Bale always struck me as kind of a "wooden" actor. Not that I've seen him in a lot of things, but his Batman is not exactly the guy you want to cruise the Ave with. Well, needless to say, he astounded me this time. From the moment he has that first nightmare, yeah I felt for him. Kind of like Van Damme, you don't think of him as the feely type and then you see him in Timecop.
Taye Diggs has a blast playing Brandt, a partner officer assigned to John. Just when you think you know for sure where this character is headed, you don't. Emily Watson is adequate in the role of Mary O'Brien, a lady who has been taken in for the crime of feeling and naturally becomes sort of like John's "second chance" after what happened with his wife. It is through her character that the film actually pulls off its ballsiest moment. Very few films would have let it go that way. Sean Bean and Christian Kahrmann do respectably in their roles as fellow officers.
Do feelings actually make us more physically capable? Well, as far as John Preston is concerned, damn straight. What good is being the best fighter in the world if you don't have a reason to fight?
I can only think of one other movie that actually made me say "YES!" out loud when it was done. And not because I was glad it was finally over, but just because the ending kicked so much ass. The last shot of this film, it's just one of those moments in a man's life when he realizes the best thing in the world that could possibly happen is happening to him right now. He is winning.
Oh, what a feeling.
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