Reviewed by: Megan Basham
use of “clerics” as government agents in a fascist government
fascism / totalitarian / dictatorship
forced social conformity
brainwashing / mind control
suppression and blocking of human emotions (love, hate, rage, anger, sorrow, jealousy, elation, joy) and artistic expression, including music, paintings, poetry and books
underground resistance to totalitarianism
violent executions by government
massacre/extermination of innocent people deemed undesirable by the government
Christian Bale … John Preston
Sean Bean … Partridge
Emily Watson … Mary O'Brien
Dominic Purcell … Seamus
Christian Kahrmann … Officer in Charge
John Keogh … Chemist
Sean Pertwee … Father
William Fichtner … Jurgen
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|Director||Kurt Wimmer—“Total Recall” (2012), “Law Abiding Citizen” (2009)|
Blue Tulip Productions
“In a future where freedom is outlawed outlaws will become heroes.”
With little to look forward to in terms of major releases until “Lord of the Rings”, my husband and I decided to take a risk with a low-budget sci-fi flick, “Equilibrium”. Every once in a while, venturing into the daunting world of indie film (usually characterized by we’re-so-much-cooler-and-smarter-than-you ennui) can actually pay off. And I have to admit, it certainly did in this case.
Set in the near future in the dictatorship of Librium, mankind discovers that intense emotions like jealousy and rage are the true enemy—causing people to wage war and commit murder. So in the interest of creating a peaceful, anesthetized utopia, a new world order is established requiring everyone to deaden such feelings with the government issued drug, Prozium.
Naturally there are resistors—renegade art and music lovers who refuse to take their medicine and realize that suppressing anger and hatred also suppresses love and joy. Charged with rooting out these “sense-offenders” is an elite fighting squad, the clerics. And the most elite of this elite team is cleric John Preston (Christian Bale), a soldier so committed to the cause, he doesn’t even flinch when his wife is arrested and executed. In fact, Preston remains steadfast until his partner reveals himself as a poetry-reading traitor and a providential Prozium accident allows him to experience his own God-given emotion.
To be fair, Equilibrium’s heavy-handed plot sometimes contradicts itself, and the preposterous “Matrix”-esque gun battles drag on a little too long for my taste. However, the performances and a few of the action sequences, (particularly a pitch-black showdown near the beginning) are brilliant, and there was something about this Orwellian tale that roused my deepest beliefs.
One of the timeliest themes in this film is the idea that peace at any cost can be as evil and violent as war. And that not all anger—for example, righteous anger—is wrong. Maybe it’s just me, but during the whole film, I couldn’t help but think of the crowd of mockers on programs like “Saturday Night Live” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Sophisticated scoffers who find the phrase “axis of evil” (indeed the very idea of evil) a source of cynical humor and insist that bothering to overthrow a murdering, raping regime couldn’t be anything more than a political ploy. If this film argues anything, its that power-mad dictators will resort to anything to maintain the people’s allegiance.
Oh, and, of course, there are all the implications of hinging a story on an emotion-hindering drug called Prozium. Without getting too deep into the debate, “Equilibrium” seems to question the excessive practice of giving overly energetic kids and despondent adults medication that could impede their natural, and needed, emotion. I have no way of knowing the filmmaker’s actual intent, but his story definitely made me consider some of the philosophical questions of our day—quite an extraordinary thing for a movie these days.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate—“G*d-damn,” “My G*d,” “damn” (2), s-word / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.