ursting at the seams with style, coolness, and balls out
action, Kurt Wimmer's 2002 film "Equilibrium" defies logic (but
probably not Hollywood logic, if such a thing exists) by not getting a bigger
theatrical run. Written and directed by Wimmer ("The
Recruit"), "Equilibrium" re-visits the Perfect But Fascist
Society of the Future that Hollywood enjoys visiting so much. Like Terry
Gilliam's "Brazil", Andrew Niccol's "Gattaca", and George
Orwell's "1984", the world of "Equilibrium" has all but
outlawed civil liberties and it's up to a small but persistent band of Harry
Tuttle-wannabes to buck the system and save the day.
As you can probably guess, I don't particularly find the
plot of "Equilibrium" to be all that encouraging. The sterile
environment of the Perfect But Fascist Society of the Future has been done to
death and its popularity can be blamed on the Wastelands of the Future movies
that cropped up during the post-apocalyptic movie boom of the '80s. (See "Deathlands").
Apparently in the future the world can only exist in two forms: gone to hell, or
is hell on Earth. It goes without saying that I find the lack of a variety in
futuristic films to be a tad bothersome.
In any case, "Equilibrium" stars Christian Bale
("Reign of Fire")
as Preston, a member of an elite organization called the Clerics that are
assigned to eradicate all evidence of "feeling" in the world. It is
the near future (but not too far into the future, because people still drive
Ford sedans), and the world has just crawled out of World War III (although it
looks remarkably healthy). The rulers of our Perfect But Fascist Society of the
Future have decided that the reason for war was that people relied too much on
their feelings, and thus, feelings must be outlawed. (If you haven't guessed,
this is a Feel Good Liberal's way of saying that a world based solely on Logical
Thinking (i.e. not Feel Good Liberalism) is EEE-vil.)
Problems arise when Preston, the Cleric's best killer,
forgets to take drugs that suppress feelings. The entire society is so heavily
medicated by this drug that the scene is reminiscent of the underground workers
of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis". For those of you without proper movie
I.Q., just recall the automaton conditions of "Brazil"; or for those
of you really lacking movie I.Q., the recent but wholly cheesy "The
Breed". Not surprisingly, Nazi symbolism abound. (Which leads me to
this point: I really wish people would stop making such overt parallels
to Nazism. Oh, subtlety, where have ye gone?)
Once Preston's feelings begin to kick back in, the Cleric
rebels. He's aided by Emily Watson ("Red
Dragon") as a "sense offender", but has to contend with Taye
his suspicious Cleric partner. I would like to say that "Equilibrium"
is a very excellent movie even though one can't seem to shake that strong
been-there done-that vibe. The movie is greatly boosted by the tour de force
performance of Bale, who is an amazing physical specimen as the top dog Cleric
with the killing skills of a machine. Every time Preston breaks out into action,
the movie becomes the epitome of hyperbolic violence coolness.
Adding to the appeal of "Equilibrium" is its
creation of a form of "gun kata", where the use of a gun becomes as
dangerous a martial arts as the use of the hands and feet. The Clerics are all
trained in this martial arts that allows them to kill multiple opponents at once
using not only their speed and agility, but by knowing the habits of an average
gunman. As a result, the Clerics use their weapons like swords, slashing and
firing in a frenzy of death and bullets. If John Woo invented gun fu, then Kurt
Wimmer has invented gun kata.
While watching "Equilibrium", I was nagged by a
couple of inconsistencies in Wimmer's writing. For example, if feelings are
supposed to be outlawed and the Clerics are supposed to be completely without
feelings, then why does Taye Diggs' character show paranoia, pride, ego,
ambition, and on more than one occasion, vanity? Maybe Wimmer just failed to
relate to Diggs the nuances of a society that outlaws feelings. Or perhaps like
the great "Father" of our Perfect but Fascist Society of the Future,
Diggs' character is in fact secretly feeling unbeknownst to everyone else.
Then again, considering Kurt Wimmer's lack of ability in
employing subtlety, that last statement seems a bit, shall we say, illogical.