Equilibrium (2002) Written and Directed by Kurt Wimmer
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"In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man's inhumanity to man - his ability to feel." First Lines...Dupont.
Welcome to the dystopic future, where all of man's problems have been solved by the elimination of the root cause of all human conflict; emotion. The populace is modulated by Prozium, which eliminates the banes of anger, sorrow, lust and joy. While chemical restraint is the first line of defense, the second is the elimination of all that might elicit an emotional response; art, music, literature, pets.
John Preston (Christian Bale) is one of the top ranked Grammaton Clerics, skilled in Gun Kata, and at detecting emotional responses, perhaps even predicting them. His partner, Partridge (Sean Bean) falls to the seduction of sensation, and it is Preston who brings him down, dispassionately. That is the way he handled his wife's arrest and execution for Sense Crime. However, a single missed dose and Preston begins to see the world in a new way.
That is not when he fell from grace; no, it was when he did not take the next dose as a conscious decision. Now he is in an interesting position, a keeper of the social order, breaking their primary law, surrounded by people who are trained to detect what he is doing. In the course of his duties, he captures Mary O'Brian (Emily Watson), a woman of deep passions, with an extensive collection of forbidden articles. He finds her...compelling.
As he searches deeper into the underground, he is more and more seduced by the forbidden emotions. And at the same time, he finds himself in the same unenviable position that he placed Partridge in; his new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs) is beginning to look at him with a professional eye.
As I was watching this, I was struck with the liberal and deliberate theft from other works. You can see great themes from 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. The action is stolen from a John Woo flick. Even real world history his used; the symbol of Libria, a cross of ‘T's is visually reminiscent of the swastika, made from the truncated cross of Brave New World's T for Henry Ford's Model T.
The contrast between the world of white, black and grey that the new world order has adopted, with minimalist lines contrasts sharply with the floral patterns and artistic clutter of the Underground's repositories, that resemble nothing so much as a flea market.
At first, I was off put by these tricks and devices that have been used before, but then I was reminded of another Sci Fi favorite where Mr. Data, the Android crew man of the Enterprise , was pursuing his career as a musician. Replicating every nuance of classic performances, it was questionable if he was actually creating art. But in choosing whose bow technique and whose tonal control and tempo he copied, and by mixing and matching disparate styles, he created something new, even while copying the works of others.
That is what we have here. This is an action movie. At a body count of 236, 118 of them dead by Preston 's hand, he has the third highest personal body count in movie history. And yet, there is a good deal of thought, philosophy and dire warning hiding in the subtext of this movie. And it does it underhanded in the background, avoiding preaching, and being more effective thereby.
This combination of extreme violence, slick production, intelligent plot and excellent acting (Bale is an excellent emotional minimalist) makes this an excellent movie. Severely underappreciated, I recommend it as a film, and a cautionary tale.
This review, like Grammaton Cleric Preston, is Lean-N-Mean, at 666 words exactly.
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