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In the first years of the 21st Century, a third world war broke out. Those of us who survived, knew mankind could never survive a fourth. That our own volatile nature could simply no longer be risked. So, we created a new arm of the law..... The Grammaton Cleric. Whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of mans inhumanity to man......... His ability to feel.

One of the greatest fears that thinking people have is that that ability be taken from them. Control is a topic that has been brought up again and again since the beginning of the last century. In this early 21st century, this issue has not lost any of its fear-factor. Films such as ‘The Matrix’, ‘Gattaca’, and ‘Minority Report’ and books such as ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, warnings about the fickleness of human nature, are still just as popular as ever. This innovative film is an original slant on the old dystopian future-society genre adding its unique storyline, characters and what-if situation. This is a summery of the plot:

In the mid-21st century, in the aftermath of World War III, which saw humanity almost annihilate itself entirely, governments around the globe vote to outlaw emotions, since these seem to be the root cause of every conflict and dispute.

The citizens of ‘Libria’ (ironically meaning ‘freedom’), are given mandatory doses of Prozium, a powerful drug, which shuts down the individual's ability to feel. In addition, they must report anyone who shows signs of affection, fear, anger, enthusiasm, appreciation or sympathy. This is the Buddhist ideal of self-containment mixed with a fascist approach to brainwashing. Hatred, anger and jealousy are steadily eliminated, and peace, albeit a drug-induced one, ensues once more on the planet.

The citizens are constantly under the watching eye of ‘Father’, a character reminiscent of Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’. The will of ‘Father’ is exerted by the feared ‘Grammaton Clerics’ an elite unit formed to police the new emotionless society with extraordinary abilities and training. Cleric, John Preston (Christian Bale) is the highest ranking and best that the order have. His unquestioning, unwavering belief in the system makes him a feared and respected member of the order. any materials deemed to be of ‘Emotive Content’ which may prove damaging are labelled EC-10 and subsequently incinerated, so when Preston discovers Mona Lisa during a raid he unfeelingly has it burned to a crisp. Worse than that how ever is that when he discovers that his cleric partner and friend is guilty of ‘sense offence’ he is forced to exact ‘justice’ upon him and kill him.

Following the murder of his wife (Maria Pia Calzone) as a ‘Sense Offender’, though begins to doubt the neatly ordered world around him. Perhaps he should be allowed to grieve, and so, he secretly misses a dose of Prozium and is subsequently overcome with emotion.

Struggling to hide his feelings from his zombified colleagues, especially his suspicious partner Brandt (Taye Diggs) and young son Robbie (Matthew Harbour) (reminiscent of the young ‘tell-tale’ boy in ‘1984’), Preston finds himself recruited by rebel underground leader Jurgen (William Fichtner) to overthrow the rulers and restore love and feeling back to the people.

His quest for revolution brings him into contact with beautiful Sense Offender, Mary (Emily Watson), whose fate may be beyond even his control.. (just to spoil that for you she’s incarcerated for overexcitement)…

Equilibrium is a good, original story which has some stark similarities to a Nazi Germany in many ways, (the burning of literature and works of art which don't conform to the ‘new order’). Such is the atmosphere of the film, in places you expect to see a Swastika, even though the Tetragrammaton have their own plainly evident symbol. This most definitely can proudly and confidently stand up there with Gattaca, 1984 and the likes. It stands on its own with a brilliant idea and a sufficient execution of that idea.

At times, Equilibrium doesn't quite make complete sense and it would have been nice to have a little bit of a background as to, how the world's governments persuade their citizens to take the drug en masse and it would go amiss to explore and fork out the rest of the alternate world events alluded to in the film.

Equilibrium is an atmospheric and energetic film, simply superb and quite awesome overall. Although the film uses a noticeably Matrix-esque style of fighting with gravity-defying acrobatics and superhuman daring, (designed to attract the less-pensive audience), it should not at all be compared to the Matrix. The relatively meagre budget by modern movie standards has been well spent. The cinematography is superb as are the special effects. But, as I often say, a film is not all about special effects.

It is about time people realised that ‘The Matrix’ IS NOT the damned benchmark for sci-fi films and all other films should not therefore be compared to it. I think that a film can receive no greater insult than to be compared to another film. This comment instantly means the film is not original, and usually means that it is worse than the movie it is compared to. This applies doubly so for anything that is compared to The Matrix.* This is by no means the case in Equilibrium. It stands alone as an immensely enjoyable, reassuringly engaging and thought provokingly stimulating film.

The ‘Gun-Kata’ is a novel and original approach to the cinematic gun battle, which is very impressive. Much of the action is accompanied by monastic chanting, which affords a distinctly eerie feel to the violence. Neither action nor the intrigue ever stops right up until the super-charged final showdown.

*Would you say that ‘Alien’ was post ‘Star Wars’? Of course not, which is my point exactly. Equilibrium doesn't profess to being The Matrix. It retains a distinct originality in terms of the on screen combat and storyline and manages to create some excellent characters without having to embellish them with now clichéd Matrix-isms. This being the case it is as pointless to compare Equilibrium with the Matrix, as it is to compare it to Nicholas Nickleby.

Essay Submitted 8 January 2004

by Dorayaki


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