Hidden Gems: Equilibrium

by Walid Habboub

August 11, 2003

Cynicism is the driving force in modern cinema. So many film critics have seen it all that they have become jaded to the process to the point that very few films ever get impartial grading. Instead, they are victimized by pre-release bias. We need to look no further than this summer's releases to see how many movies were judged long before they ever entered theaters. BOP thinks this is a shame. While we are first in line to mock when the opportunity presents itself, we have thankfully not gotten to the point yet where we have lost our love of cinema. It is, after all, what unites this group of 37 individuals together in our creation of the website.

As a way of flying in the face of convention (this is our favorite pastime), we have decided to publish one of the most simplistic yet pure column ideas possible. BOP is proud to announce Hidden Gems, our weekly offering of a film recommendation you might know well or you might have never heard about. What you will garner from these pieces is that despite the criticisms we offer when a movie doesn't satisfy, we are at heart huge movie buffs. If someone makes a movie that touches us, we will be first in line to praise it whenever the opportunity presents itself. (David Mumpower/BOP)


Equilibrium is not an original film. And while that is not the most positive way to begin a film recommendation, it is important to remember that most of today's films are derivative and have reduced originality to a mere luxury. Equilibrium does not try to break any new ground, but instead retreads familiar territory in a very effective, engaging and entertaining way. Directed by newcomer Kurt Wimmer, the film stars Christian Bale, who does fine work and shows that maybe Keanu wasn't such a perfect fit for The One. Its co-stars, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Sean Bean and Angus MacFadyen (Robert the Bruce from Braveheart), are also impeccably pedigreed.

Set in a future where emotions have been outlawed and all art has been eliminated, the film focuses on a Cleric. Clerics of this world are highly specialized police officers, and the central character in this film is named John Preston (Bale). Preston is the top Cleric in the country and unquestionably believes in the system, which involves taking a sedative drug five times a day to keep human emotions in check and seeking out those who cling to emotion and possess art -- in its many forms -- in hopes of clinging to humanity. Preston must seek out the offenders and confiscate all art that would serve to stir emotions within humans.

Preston is ruthless and of course, feels no regret or remorse as to what he does. Yet as the film progresses, Preston slowly begins to drift into the world of feelings. His decline happens slowly and he begins to reflect upon his life and all the things he had done. Matters are complicated for Preston when he meets a woman who clings to her feelings and begins to sympathize with her. From there, Preston must choose between acting on his new feelings and following everything that he has believed in all his life.

Equilibrium contains the often-used plot line of a person running from the very system he used to believe in but does not dwell on it. The film centers on, and its strength is, the emotion of the story. While a world void of any feelings or emotions is far-fetched and unlikely, Preston's slow ascent to humanity is believable and heartbreaking. The movie has an emotional pull unusual to a futuristic sci-fi action film. So while it does follow the footsteps of predecessors such as Minority Report and The Matrix, Equilibrium separates itself by having more heart than either of those films; however, it is a relatively low budget production, so you cannot expect the same visuals that those two box office behemoths contained. The action is top notch and quite visceral, though it doesn't have the same scope as other sci-fi films.

Do not let this movie fool you. Equilibrium can easily be dismissed as a B movie or a pretender, but if given the chance, it really hits home. The film brings up questions of theology and conformity and how they are affected by deep, personal conflict while maintaining a consistent pace that allows for some very exciting action scenes. The plot is solid enough so as to not betray the quality of the production, and the acting, especially by Bale, is strong. Equilibrium slipped through the cracks during its very small theatrical run, but is is definitely worth seeing.



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