Viking Night: Equilibrium
By Bruce Hall
October 7, 2014
Have you ever wondered how much better The Matrix would be with Christian Bale instead of Keanu Reeves?
If you haven't, you will after watching Equilibrium. Screenwriter and infrequent director Kurt Wimmer brings his personally handcrafted, highly stylized dystopia to life with mixed results. Thematically, it's reminiscent of Orwell's 1984. Stylistically it takes a lot of its cues from The Matrix, which was not uncommon back in 2002. And although I can't prove it, I feel like they might have used the set designer from Gattaca. Am I trying to say that Equilibrium feels well informed by other films? Yes. Yes, I am. But I'd stop short of calling it "derivative." Equilibrium is not novel or groundbreaking, and it will remind you of movies you've seen before. But somehow it stands on its own as a moderately compelling parable, and posits the idea that our emotions must guide us, but never define us.
That sounds really heavy doesn't it? That's probably why they had a British guy do the opening voiceover, so that you know how totally freaking serious this movie is about to be. In this future, World War III, like all the best wars, was started by a powerful tyrant whose fiery disposition brought near total destruction to humanity. The survivors live in a gleaming walled city called Libria, surrounded by the ruins of what once was - a place called The Nether. There's nothing like a good old fashioned apocalypse to scare the complacency out of people, so the Librian government concluded that the cause of all humanity's problems was an overabundance of emotion. So in an effort to keep the peace, citizens are required to take a drug called Prozium to suppress their feelings.
But that's not all. Any form of artistic expression or creativity is punishable by immediate death, so afraid are these humans of their own nature. All books, paintings, music - anything that once made human society human - is outlawed. For now, I just want you to imagine the city of Libria as a society of fascist Vulcans where everyone wears Hugo Boss and for some reason, all the people in charge are British. The law is enforced by an elite police squad known as the Clerics, who can sense emotions and are trained in a particularly awesome form of kung fu called "gun-kata," which we totally do not get to see enough of in this movie. But more on that later.
The Nether is populated by those who refuse to take Prozium and choose to be creative and free and live like, you know, actual humans. The Clerics spend a lot of time there, breaking down doors, burning books and executing so-called "sense-offenders" in the name of the law. The irony of a regime seeking to eliminate war by waging one against its own people is not exactly subtle. The Tom Brady of Clerics is a man named John Preston (Christian Bale). He and his partner Partridge (Sean Bean) are at the top of their game, scouring the Nether and rooting out the Resistance, one building at a time. Preston is an uncompromising man who shows no mercy to the insurgents, and even personally presides over the destruction of the Mona Lisa.