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1 item from 2002


Equilibrium

6 December 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Dimension Films' sci-fi movie "Equilibrium" borrows from so many literary and cinematic sources that this future world feels absolutely Deja Vu. Lacking in originality and featuring cost-conscious models and effects that cannot compete with those in holiday blockbusters, this lame Christmas entry will have to attract young male audiences with action sequences involving guns, swords and futuristic martial arts.

Writer-director Kurt Wimmer's dystopian society, where all human feeling is illegal, owes its biggest debt to Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451". But one can spot lifts from George Orwell and Aldous Huxley along with images from filmmakers ranging from Fritz Lang to King Vidor in his depiction of a conformist society kept in check through regular doses of a mood-suppressant drug self-administered with needle guns.

The new religion in this postapocalyptic world is peace at any price. Its "clerics" stamp out any expression of human emotion with deadly force. For some reason, it has been decided that art, music and literature are what provokes unwanted passions. (My God, just think how many lives have been lost through poetry alone!) Thus, cleric John Preston (Christian Bale), the government's top killer, ruthlessly burns all books and paintings he finds in the "nethers," a rotting urban landscape that surrounds the soulless city of Libria. When his partner shows signs of emotion, John kills him. But his new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs), is an even fiercer believer in the system.

The highly predictable then happens: John accidentally misses his drug dose. Sure enough, he starts to "feel." First, he feels certain urges for a "sense offender" played by Emily Watson. She has wild, curly hair and red lipstick, so you know she has ditched her drugs. Then John gets misty-eyed over a puppy, a gimmick that was old before talkies came in. John de-cides to join the rebels and assassinate the supreme ruler, called Father. No one has ever seen Father, but he appears larger than life on TV monitors all over the metropolis. Yes, Wimmer lifts from "The Wizard of Oz", too.

A film as poorly thought out as "Equilibrium" makes you realize how beautifully imagined and densely observed the future was in "Minority Report". Nothing makes sense in Libria. If all reading material is banned, how do its citizens achieve their literacy? If all emotions are suppressed by drugs, what accounts for the constant displays of anger? If all passion is doused, how do marriage and propagation of the species manage to continue? Most importantly, if all violent urges have been suppressed, then why is the movie so violent?

The clerics undergo religious study, which apparently means bullet avoidance. Thus, in any gunbattle, the clerics can slip between the paths of bullets, no matter how numerous, while slaughtering multitudes. These balletic fights provide the film's slick stunt action, neatly choreographed by Jim Vickers.

Bale all too easily plays the zombie enforcer but never finds a convincing way to play his emerging emotions. Diggs' moral righteousness strikes the appropriate cord. Watson gives dash and vigor to a small role, but what is she even doing in this movie?

The models for the antiseptic city look all too familiar to sci-fi fans. Up-close interiors are mostly drywall wonders that perforate easily. Dion Beebe's cinematography is dark and moody in the nethers but changes to sunny and sterile in Libria's city center. That must be what is meant by equilibrium.

EQUILIBRIUM

Dimension Films

Blue Tulip Prods.

Credits:

Screenwriter-director: Kurt Wimmer

Producer: Jan de Bont, Lucas Foster

Executive producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Andrew Rona

Director of photography: Dion Beebe

Production designer: Wolf Kroeger

Music: Klaus Bedelt

Costume designer: Joseph Porro

Co-producer: Sue Baden-Powell

Editors: Tom Rolf, William Yeh

Cast:

John Preston: Christian Bale

Brandt: Taye Diggs

Mary O'Brian: Emily Watson

Master Cleric: Angus MacFayden

Partridge: Sean Bean

Running time -- 107 minutes

MPAA rating: R

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1 item from 2002


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