Movie Review: Equilibrium
Great action, questionable plot.
People who enjoy watching action movies aren't usually the same people who are overly concerned with a well developed airtight plot. Equilibrium is the kind of movie that appeals to that person, but even the most forgiving action lover may have difficulty with this flick. There are fantastic action sequences, yet this is countered by a weak plot premise.
The movie centers around the character John Preston (played by Christian Bale), a cleric - in this case, a highly trained government agent - who enforces the wishes of a strict fascist government. Rage, hatred, envy, and other negative emotions are blamed for mankind nearly destroying itself, so the government attempts to prevent future human atrocities by requiring its citizens take a drug that inhibits all emotion - including those that are positive. Preston is charged with the responsibility of seeking out both those resistant to the regime and the items they posses which entice the senses into emotional reaction; these items include visual arts, music, and poetry. An unexpected turn of events causes Preston to miss a dose of his "medication," which then causes him to feel emotions, or as the movie calls them, sense crimes. This forces him to question the government, his actions, and the validity of living in a world of no emotion. Upon realizing everything he believes in is wrong, he begins to work with the revolutionaries as a high ranking double agent.
The premise that a society can function without love, hate, passion, anger, and the rest of the human emotional range is the source of the plot's weakness. The idea, I believe, was to create a society forced into apathy; this is something quite different from the total absence of emotion. This creates several problems in the course of the movie as characters who are supposed to have no emotion are forced into emotionally driven dialogue. The job of the actor is to portray his character not simply through dialogue, but through dialogue that reveals the thoughts and feelings of that character. If all the characters in this movie truly expressed no emotion, all the dialogue would be boring, and the movie just wouldn't work.
To give credit where credit is due, there is an interesting paradox presented in this concept. The clerics and other military factions are extremely violent despite their adherence to the anti-emotional drug regiment. This wonder drug said to stop murder, torture, and cruelty does nothing of the sort; instead, those working to prevent violence use violence to enforce its prevention. Without emotion there is no guilt, no remorse, and no conscience. For this reason, the clerics and their support teams ravage the rebellion without a second thought. While a society with no emotion cannot actually work, this clever aspect shows the fundamental principle on which the government is acting is clearly flawed.
Unfortunately, this is as original as the movie's plot gets. The story is very straightforward; one man sees the error of his ways and joins with a rebellious force to topple a merciless government. It's nothing new, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The movie does have some emotionally moving scenes, one in particular where Preston's partner, Partridge (played by Sean Bean) recites beautiful poetry that does an excellent job enticing the viewer while also building on the premise of the plot itself. Preston discovering his own emotions also has some stirring moments.
The highlight of this movie is the action. In terms of excitement, there is no question this movie delivers. A martial art involving the use of guns in a series of positions statistically proven to incur incredible damage without taking any in return is the main form of action presented in this movie. While the overall plot fails to be original, this form of action does not. The gunfights are unique, the action scenes are well choreographed and easy to follow. If a martial art based in guns isn't enough for you, all clerics are trained in staves and swords as well, allowing for diversity in how violence and mayhem are dealt. Quality action is what makes this movie worth seeing.
When it comes to action movies, there is a question every viewer should ask themselves: Am I willing to forgive the errors in plot and concept so that I can enjoy the action? If your answer is yes, then you should see this movie. If your answer is no, this is probably not the movie for you.
This review may sound overly harsh; for an action movie, perhaps it is. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give a 6.5. The movie is no great work of art, nor is it as high a caliber as many other action movies in terms theme. It is, however, a real treat for lovers of action. I give a median score because this movie just isn't for everyone, and a lot of people aren't going to like it. If you're willing to forgive the story its faults in light of its amazing action, then not seeing this movie would truly be missing out.