Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mini-movie review: Equilibrium

Equilibrium is a science fiction film that I have no idea where I heard about it, but for some reason insisted on moving it right up to the top of my movie queue. It's got a great cast - Christian, Bale, Taye Diggs, Angus MacFayden, Emily Watson, William Fichtner, Sean Bean - and a solid story concept, but the whole thing ultimately fails because the writer/director was too impressed with himself.

Set in a post-apocalyptical Earth, humankind has been ravaged by WWIII. The remaining world leaders decide that it is human feeling (anger, passion) that is to blame for the planet's ills and thus, to save mankind, all feeling is eradicated - or at least damped down, people drugged into a passionless existence. The mood-altering drug regimen is required and offenders are dealt with ... harshly.

Christian Bale plays an enforcer type, a Cleric, highly skilled with weaponry and trained to sense emotion in others. After his Cleric partner, Sean Bean (mmmmmm!), succumbs to emotion, Bale accidentally misses a dose of the drugs and then begins to Feel his own traitorous feelings. Taye Diggs is Bale's ambitious new partner; Emily Watson and William Fichtner are wasted as emotional rebels.

My very first reaction as the movie started? "Oh great, yet another movie where Christian Bale has a completely flat affect" [see also the Batmans and the new Terminator which I will not be seeing]. But he actually gets to stretch his acting chops as the once tightly controlled Cleric becomes unraveled, at first afraid of, and then reveling in, his burgeoning new feelings.

Now, this movie was the perfect vehicle for the moral issue: is too little emotion just as deadly as too much? But then the writer/director (you look him up - I'm not going to bother) decides, "Hey! You know what this thought-provoking and dour sci-fi flick needs? Some Matrix-like, over the top, cartoonish gun fights! Let's give it a mystical name - "gun kata" - because that's cool, and let's drop the special effects in whenever the movie hits a poignant note! Yeah, that won't knock the audience out of the moment or anything!" And that's what he did. Totally dumb and cartoonish. He took what could have been another Children of Men and made it, I don't know, another third Matrix. Ugh.

Equilibrium is rated R for violence but I'm not entirely sure that's warranted. Yes, there are oodles of bullets fired but the deaths are largely non-gory. Dogs are "shot" but it's all off-screen and CB saves a puppy who is later nearly his undoing (Bernese mountain puppy - so cute!). Oh, yeah, Tage Diggs gets his face sliced off but it's wicked fake.

The coolest thing: getting to hear CB's real (British) accent in a few seconds of interview in the extras.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this back in the day, now it gathers dust on my shelf. I should rewatch it and see how my opinion has changed.

    I liked the gun kata and the Taye Diggs face slice, and I'm a sucker for Christian Bale and Emily Watson. That's probably why I snatched this up.

    I'll be doing a special Bale post soon.