A common criticism of Equilibrium is that it is a derivative science fiction piece, a factor hard to ignore in the experience. The derivative nature of the story becomes clear relatively quickly as it is heavily rooted in the predictable nature of the story formula. Equilibrium's formula is one which dates back through countless science fiction narratives such as the recent Repo Men (2010) and as far back as Logan's Run (1976) in which the protagonist is an outstanding member of a government task force at first before later beginning to question the structure of their society, going rogue and changing the world. The entire black suit aesthetic of the society as well as the combination of science fiction and martial arts also echoes clear similarity to The Matrix (1999). There are a few minor twists along the way with the supporting characters gaining arbitrary relevance to the story, but there ends up being few surprises in Equilibrium.
Beyond its derivative nature, the story in Equilibrium fails to capture its full potential. The intro points out that a new war has changed the face of humanity without explaining the finer details of who was involved in the war or exactly what political implications were either behind it or resulting from it. This plot point is essentially a token story element to create a generic dystopian setting in which serves as the backdrop for an action thriller with the deeper meaning in the story being very sporadic. Yet even though the film functions better as an action film, the generic story still takes top priority. So audiences are dragged through an abundance of predictable and cliche plot points with a lot of talking and different attempts at universe building. The dialogue is fairly solid as it captures the tone of the film without ever being cringe-worthy, but the universe building in Equilibrium is blunted by the film's inability to delve into its deeper ambitions. Ultimately, the story in Equilibrium really lets audiences down while the action is too rare and brief for it to hide behind.
Nevertheless, director Kurt Wimmer deserves praise for his stylistic ambition. Despite the limited depth in the story, the fact is that he creates a very convincing and visually appealing universe for Equilibrium on a very modest budget. At the cost of only $20 million, the man proves capable of creating a convincing and grim dystopia. The production design carries both the technological brilliance of a futuristic society and the dry emptiness of a world in shambles while the monotonous and grim colour scheme captures the bleak uniformity of the society. The scenery provides a powerful backdrop to this all while the costume design infuses it to the characters. If you really try and focus on how the film got away on such a small budget you'll pick up on the fact that the trick is to mediate the use of semi-detailed scenery and focus on the protagonist's story as a means of keeping the scale small. The dialogue in the film also serves as a constant reminder for what is going on in the world. Equilibrium proves a strong testament to Kurt Wimmer's strong eye for imagery and ability to realize his vision on such a modest budget.
An important thing to note in Equilibrium is the action, particularly considering that the cinematography in these scenes proves very experimental, for better and for worse. Director of photography Dion Beebe utilizes many innovative angles and experiments with some strong close-up techniques, but he also has a tendency to use too many of them. The action in Equilibrium uses a lot of close-ups, quick cuts, missing frames and pace alteration which has proven to damage the credibility of lesser action films such as Taken 2 (2012) or A Good Day to Die Hard (2013). Equilibrium teeters on the point of excess without actively crossing it. The abundance of cuts may be overwhelming for some viewers, but action junkies should be able to appreciate its ambitions. And most importantly, it does not disguise the fact that there has clearly been a strong supply of stunt choreography at the roots of the production. The style of action in Equilibrium is rather experimental which may deter some audiences just as it impresses others, but ultimately the combination of shootouts and gun-fu are a pleasure to look at. The entire concept of gun kata is in itself a very original concept and remains the most memorable aspect of Equilibrium.
And for what it's worth, Christian Bale delivers a very solid leading performance. Given that the film is very shallow in terms of both story and characterization, the fact that Christian Bale delivers such a powerful performance gives a lot of credibility to the man. John Preston is a man whose submissive totalitarian values are challenged by his first direct confrontation with the concept of emotion. With this simplistic characterization in mind, Christian Bale proves himself able to walk a very strong line between being an emotionless sociopath and a man struggling with the discovery of his own humanity. With the fearless charisma of an authority figure, Christian Bale takes command as a powerful action hero and delivers as much justice to his firm line delivery as he does to the gun kata. The man kicks major ass with his fighting skills and remains a firm and intimidating presence, yet as he becomes more in touch with his emotions we see an intense vulnerability begin to brew inside him. He loses inner security and begins to channel his emotions at an intelligently progressive rate as he adds elements of angry ambition into the role. Christian Bale never loses his edge, whatever state of mind John Preston may be in. And the manner in which he consistently carries himself through every moment in the story with fearless tenacity stands as one of the finest aspects of Equilibrium.
Equilibrium boasts an intensively dedicated performance from Christian Bale and some stylish directorial work from Kurt Wimmer, but the generic and underdeveloped narrative ends up unengaging and short on action.
John Preston, played by Christian Bale, believes in this system, is a high-ranking part of this system, hunts down those who are feeling and hiding their contraband art and music. He loses his work partner and his own wife to this system and finally has a day when he does not take his Prozium. John finally sees the light and feels normal human emotions.
Authoritarian systems can take many forms and use many methods: forced medication, execution of people for any infringement, hunting people down, control of every little aspect of people's lives, oversurveillance and loss of all privacy, overincarceration, government control of all freely flowing information to ensure it is the government approved version. Are such sacrifices worthwhile for the illusion of security, law, order, and justice which are not equitable, reasonable, or fair?
Times are changing. Ours may not look exactly like the world in Equilibrium, but we do and will continue to face many of the same challenges. "Big Brother" should be a tool for good, not a tool for evil. Lifestyle choice is relevant. Cultural choice is relevant. Humanitarian and humane penalties and rules are relevant. To give up all these relevant things that make life what it is.....Is that worth the illusion of security? To some, apparently it is. To me...not so sure about that.
Security is a balance of competent people, good technology, and reasonable rules with reasonable ways to encourage the following of those rules. Is what we have now good security? It appears to be a mishmash, to me. When security is used to enforce the will of the wealthiest over everyone else, or to deny reasonable accomodations for cultural and lifestyle choices, it is tyranny under the guise of security.
And what was the United States founded upon? What was so dire that colonists fought to overthrow their king for? Which famous American Patriot said, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"? The American Revolution happened and the War for Independence was primarily fought for mere taxes. TAXES. Taxes on tea. Not forced medication as depicted in Equilibrium. Not having art and music (culture) taken away.
Come to think of it, we have forced medication NOW. You must allow your child to be injected with substances that the person giving the injection cannot even list and describe or describe any contraindications for or any possible side effects for other than temporary pain at injection site and fever. And these injections are for the purpose of protecting against diseases which are not actually deadly, while the diseases they cause (autoimmune, SIDS, autism, retardation if your child has a mitochondrial malfunction, and ADHD) are comprehensively denied and covered up, blamed on something else, so that somebody doesn't have to pay for the damage. And liability has even been legally removed from the companies, so if damage is caused by their product they will not have to pay.
Medical personnel are being forced to choose between losing their jobs or accepting injections containing mercury, a known neurotoxin (which the so-ethical vaccine manufacturers used to put into children's vaccines too, knowing they were causing damage), and undergoing very minimal safety standards and testing (since they develop a new flu vaccine each year). Nurses are having to accept these injections in order to keep their jobs, when wearing masks and washing hands are safer and more effective methods of preventing flu spread in hospitals. Why? Because the biggest shareholders of the biggest vaccine making corporations make insane amounts of money off this system. But the government tells us they're safe? Yes, they do. Who paid for the campaigns of most of our elected officials? Including the ones who decide which people will decide what is "good" healthcare policy and what is "safe" to eat or inject into your body?
And now, you are doing a little "fact-checking" of your own, trying to find the study that proves any connection between vaccines and anything else and is mercury really a neurotoxin? You can find some things about mercury but when it comes to negative research on vaccines, the search engine gives you next to nothing. Huh, if it's not in the search engine, it doesn't exist, right? It's interesting, but it seems that those few studies that do not say exactly what official doctrine is about vaccines just disappear, whether depublished or just removed from searchability. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc are generally pretty compliant with government requests. A recent Canadian study linking vaccines to multiple conditions disappeared as fast as it appeared. One other bit of research I found several years ago that disappeared from search engine? Brain cancer study. I was so excited, when I found an obscure article online published in some medical journal primarily consumed by specialists. In a small study, a specific type of brain cancer went into drastic remission in most study participants, fully curing some and on the way to curing others. I went to find it again a month later, and all traces of it were gone from the search engine. It didn't exist. How sad!
People can feel safe knowing the government is keeping the peace in our land of the free. Big Brother knows best, even if Big Brother is owned and operated by all the biggest corporations, and the biggest shareholders of those corporations, in the US, through their long history of election campaign funding. Surely, they have all our best interests in mind.
I'm not saying that the US has reached the state of Equilibrium, or things in the movie Equilibrium. I'm not saying it's any one person or company or politician's fault. But there are things that need to be changed if we don't want our children and grandchildren to exist in an unreasonably authoritarian state under unreasonable rules and conditions. Some of it is here already, and some of it is right around the corner if we don't nip it now. And no, I don't believe in pure anarchy. That's another form of hell as well, as in The Purge. No thank you.
Great action and effects on the surface along with some fun, corny dialogue, but underneath, Equilibrium is just another one-trick-concept film that really makes no sense.
P.S. I watched this movie again because of that image where Christian Bale and Hillary Clinton are side-by-side and she looks like she's wearing the same suit.