Equilibrium (Review)

2 wild and crazy guys.

2 wild and crazy guys.

I hate it when I have seen a film and six months later am told by a friend that “You have to watch “X”, it’s brilliant!”

I then have the inevitable second guessing process that goes along with such a statement:

1) Do I trust this guy’s opinion enough to revisit the film? (Always point 1, if the answer is no ignore and move on.)
2) Assuming the answer above is yes. How well do I remember the film?
3) Was I drinking or almost asleep when I watched it?
4) Are my recollections lucid enough and passionate enough to disagree?

If the answers check out and I can’t recall enough to make my own objective decision, I am sometimes reluctantly forced to rewatch a movie to either confirm or deny my buddies’ statement. This is frustrating as I have too many other things eating into my spare time without having to blow 90+ minutes on a film that I am not certain I enjoyed in the first place, and there are always millions of other things that I could be doing with that time, like watching Die Hard again!

One thing I have realised over many years of watching films is that my initial impression is often accurate even many years later unless the watching circumstances are altered. (See point 3 in the above list.) I rarely change my opinion or ranking dramatically upon a second or third viewing.

The exception I must make here is for films that I haven’t seen since my teens, as I was a different guy then with a more forgiving eye, I would sometimes give bad movies a pass mark and remember some movies more fondly than they deserve, only to surprise (and often disappoint) myself on subsequent viewings.

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Here we have a classic case of X, in this case called Equilibrium.

I watched Equilibrium originally about 5 odd years ago and thought it was OK but nothing to crow about. I was asked recently if I had watched it, and when I said yes but couldn’t remember much I was told that “Maybe you just didn’t get it.”

To me this is the equivalent to calling Marty McFly “chicken”, and even though I was internally dubious that I would magically have my mind and indeed my entire outlook on life changed by popping in the rented DVD once more I promised to check it again.

And the verdict? Same old, same old.

Equilibrium is a nice little B movie with a couple if good bits. It looks and feels like a low budget film with designs on being a big budget film, but near the end it runs out of gas and becomes an Arnie/Gungrave Bam-Bam shootout, 100 guys to one.

Set in post WW3 in a city called Libria, society has decided that the main threat to society is not pandemics, nuclear weapon wielding megalomaniacs, drugs or swine flu, but feelings. In as much as when people feel something it inevitably leads them to have thoughts, which must invariably lead to them killing someone, or something like that. So everyone is placed on a course of anti-feelingants called Prozium, which is self administered daily to avoid naughty thoughts. It’s all very 1984 really.

To police those naughty “feelers” an elite police force called the Grammaton Cleric were created, and here’s the hook: they have been trained to fight in a unique way called Gun-Kata, meaning that they move tai-chi style while fighting to use the best angles to both maximise their kill-shots, while avoiding the most likely hit points of enemy fire. It looks cool in a fanboy way, but is more and more ludicrous the more you think about it.

To highlight the style the opening scene has Christian Bale as Cleric John Preston going into a hot-zone in pitch black darkness, and somehow blowing away dozens (at least) of bad guys who are only seen through muzzle flashes, while he remains untouched.

FUCK YEAH! That’ll teach you for liking stuff!

What must be disappointing is that despite the ability to pull off something that we in the real world can only dream of, Preston can’t even allow himself even an internal “Shit I rock” thought thanks to the downers.

After butchering the enemy anything that provokes thought or feeling is disposed of, leaving only a grey, drab and oppressive society to be bored in.

Turns out that Preston’s wife is already dead because of “sense offenses”, something that leaves him feeling quite beige, and he is raising his two kids, including his freakishly serious son who apparently dobbed Mum in in the first place.

You see where this is going early, John Preston goes though a naughty partner who had the temerity to think he could read a poetry book (Sean Bean) and gets assigned another in Taye Diggs. During a raid he takes a prisoner named Mary who questions the validity of not allowing free senses and feelings, and then he is told to shoot some puppies AWWWWW… and it’s join the dots from there.

As Preston loses patience with all the mindless-mindlessness. He seeks the underground (literally) and questions himself further, ultimately deciding to make a massive lifestyle change.

Without going into anything further as I said it is even simpler to predict what the outcome will be, and as always assume a couple of irrelevant twists to give Hollywood the satisfaction of knowing that you couldn’t get it all right, even if they are hardly min blowing and are in fact largely unnecessary.

The final fight is quite cool, after the preliminary stages where Preston must fight through many more highly trained clerics, all of whom seem to forget the gun-kata thing that they have been specifically trained in but him. This means a lot of guys running in or waiting patiently for their turn to be shot in an array of flashy yet seemingly pointless positions.

And that’s it, what you have is a B movie that may evolve into a cult film for people who want desperately to argue that a guy with two pistols doing tai chi moves and Matrix-style shootouts can defeat 50 similarly trained guys singlehandedly without a scratch.

Despite freely admitting to occasional Fanboy tendencies, I just don’t count myself as one of those particular guys when it comes to Equilibrium.

Final Rating – 6.5 – 10. Classic 6.5: A “meh” film partially redeemed by a cool fight at the very end, lasting less than 90 seconds. It’s up to you to decide if you want to sit through the previous 100 minutes.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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