Look at me everybody

Equilibrium is a sci-fi film with very little originality but quite high production values. That is to say, the plot is entirely ripped off from a variety of other sources but the action sequences look impressive. Opening in a now familiar bleak future after World War III we are told man has decided to eradicate emotion as a way of preventing any further war. The population is kept drugged and overseen by a massive police state with a dictator known as Father at its head. One man must find his emotions and stop the evil.

The film stars Christian Bale as Cleric John Preston, the psycho from American Psycho; it's his job to hunt down people who dare to feel and to destroy artworks. The background is stolen from 1984 but misinterpreted here and the style so badly wants to be the Matrix that you can hardly fail to draw the comparison. The city setting is reminiscent of a mega-city in Judge Dredd with elements of Blade Runner thrown in, except that everything is plain due to the drive to destroy emotion. Images of the Father's head spouting propaganda are beamed onto everything in sight while the citizens sit about like vegetables.

It turns out that the whole thing is kept going by some drug called Prozium II which seems to be like heavy duty Prozac. Anyone who is caught "feeling" is exterminated and all art, books, and music are incinerated. Preston's credentials are established as he catches his partner Partridge, played by Sean Bean, reading poetry and kills him. The Master Cleric, played by Angus MacFadyen, charges Preston with finding the resistance and finishing them off. As the action unfolds Preston begins to doubt his superiors and starts to feel emotions, but he has been assigned a new partner, Cleric Brandt, played by Taye Diggs, who is watching him like a hawk.

The events all take place in this city called Libria and we are given little indication whether there is an outside world anymore or not. Many of the plot devices are unconvincing and it seems a lot is assumed of the viewer. This reinforces the feeling that the film has borrowed from elsewhere quite heavily. The dialogue is unobtrusive and the emotionless back-story is used as an excuse not to develop any of the character's personalities so the movie has a hollow feel. A serious exploration of the ideas at hand is rejected in favour of fast-paced action.

Stabby stab stab

The film was directed by Kurt Wimmer and he does a pretty good job from an action point of view but stylistically this is just the Matrix all over again - the plain black or white clothing, a gun in each hand, martial arts posturing, mowing down roomfuls of people. Despite being derivative, the fight scenes seemed well choreographed and featured some really fast combat.

The acting is decent but the characters are so two-dimensional that it can't have been too challenging. The film builds to a predictable kind of conclusion and left me feeling unsatisfied. A moderately entertaining action flick with virtually no original ideas. As the screen fades it will already be gently seeping from your mind.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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