English, Italian, English - Hearing Impaired, Italian - Hearing Impaired, Commentary - Italian
Audio commentary - 1. Director Wimmer; 2. Wimmer & Producer Lucas Foster
Buena Vista/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 102 mins .
M15+ . PAL
I think that one day, about 120 years from now, when the future has well and truly arrived on our doorstep, we’ll all take a good hard look at our past cinematic projections of the future and say “Crap, did we ever get it wrong.”
Visions of a dark noir-ish anti-Utopia, bright gleaming spire-bound cities, rain drenched advertising-clad monolithic buildings housing global corporations, controlled emotions, Zero Population Growth, humans recycled as food, realistic robotic pets and artificial siblings, personal rocket ships and vacations on the moon?
I bet you $123.05 that none of this happens. You’ll step outside your door in 2124 and your grass will still need to be mowed, your shitbox car will still need a wheel alignment and a tank of petrol and your boss will still be an underpaying arsehole.
In the future, blimps are not required to display P plates.
We won’t be wearing long black Armani coats or nondescript grey uniforms with identity numbers, we won’t fight our oppressors with a mixture of kung-fu and modern jazz ballet, our trendy black Oakley sunglasses won’t contain miniature computer screens and you won’t be forced to take a drug to suppress your emotions, sexual urges and desire for beer and other drugs.
Naturally disagreeing with my less than informed opinion is the world of Equilibrium. After World War Three, the society of Libria has deemed human emotion the cause of all man’s woes. War, hatred and violence caused by British soccer hooligans, road rage, the eight items or less lane and any other pointless madness inflicted on man by his brother, is repressed by daily injections of the superdrug Prozium. On top of this, policing the sedated state for objectors and rebellious groups not adhering to the new social norm is the Tetragrammaton Cleric, a coat-clad emotionless army of ultra-cool warriors practiced in lethal gun based close combat called Gun Kata and serving the almighty and omniscient leader, Father.
Things got out of hand on The Block when they gave the gay guys machine guns to decorate.
Lead cleric, John Preston (Christian Bale), is the perfect embodiment of the soulless regime controlling the city, dispensing justice without a glimmer of fear, consideration or satisfaction. He just ‘is’, his job is to ‘do’, and the result is generally a violent death for anyone at the wrong end of his guns. And the reason you might receive a visit from the Cleric? Secretly admiring art, listening to music, reading poetry or any other appreciation of the finer arts so liberally enjoyed without question today. The price of peace (or so they would have you believe) is the abolishment of all forms of emotion-inducing stimuli. Good emotion or bad emotion, it’s all bad emotion, and if man is to survive as a race then Father (Sean Pertwee) has decided it needs to be eradicated.
But when Preston stops taking his emotion-numbing dose of Prozium, he ‘awakens’ to the beauty in the world. A glorious crimson sunrise over a concrete city, the strains of classical music from an antiquated phonograph, the words of Yeats. He’d killed people, including his own partner, for indulging in these things? Seeing the light, he sets out to make amends while carrying on the illusion of being a Cleric automaton. However, his new partner Brandt (Taye Diggs), is an (over)ambitious recruit, and becomes suspicious of Preston’s actions, which are beginning to show signs of indecision in his Cleric duties and the hallmarks of free will.
Swish, very swish. If only all murders happened in front of a conveniently placed car with its headlights on.
Pretty heavy going stuff, no? Equilibrium puts this forward with barely concealed conceit, flawed premise or not. It sets up this world in a CGI created metropolis filled with massive vid screens enhancing the European locations and traverses it with airships and filled with sets that are sterile and bland as befits a futuristic emotionally repressed society. The style brings to the surface a whole showcase of inspirations and influences, some of which it has been accused of ripping off. If the film tanked, then I could go with that logic, but the film is agreeable enough to stand on its own two head-kicking feet and even beats out pretentious drivel like Matrix Reloaded, of which many will draw the obvious similarities between Keanu Reeves and Bale, in the outfits and the highly stylised fisticuffs. But eschewing the overlong biffo, endless double-talk and mystical mumbo jumbo for conspiracies, redemption and retribution has made it a simpler story with better pacing and more accessible characters, while still steeped in a confluence of ideas drawn from politics, religion, society, history and censorship, to name just a few.
An excellent image, the visual equal to DVDs with films far exceeding this one’s budget. Spot on with detail, it shows the CGI to sometimes be less than perfect, but other times a slick integration to the live action. The pixel pushing is admirable, with the many thousand smoky squibs exploding out of the sets and actors bodies free from any transfer issues, rendered with smooth, clean ease. Typically the colour scheme is yet another that paints the future in blues and greys and blacks, but they at least draw some contrast against the more lively spot colours in the scenes revealing the caches of forbidden art and other emotion-inducing paraphernalia. Excellent stuff.
After a few audio misfires recently, I’m glad to say that this is more like it. No missed opportunities, no soundscape lacking in depth and believability here. This Dolby Digital 5.1 mix can be an engrossing and expansive experience, drawing upon all channels to fill your room with sounds from kicked in doors and criss-crossing gunfire. The clarity extends across the dialogue, higher frequencies down to the LFE, with sharp definition and snappy impact. You won’t have cause to wonder why an on-screen action wasn’t matched by an aural cue, as this gets it all spot on every time.
Although this isn’t a feature-rich release, the two commentaries, one with director Kurt Wimmer, and a second with Wimmer and producer Lucas Foster, reveal just how tight the money was, which puts the considerable achievements in the film into a more favourable light. Upon first viewing, and without the knowledge of the production restrictions, you could be forgiven for thinking that the action scenes measure up as Matrix-light, but have a listen to Wimmer and Foster repetitively refer to the limits imposed by the schedule and financial restrictions and you’ll develop a measure of respect for what they’ve been able to achieve, something which is supported by with the film making its money back without the benefits of a wide theatrical release.
Unfortunately, but probably not unexpectedly, the only other item on the disc is a short (six minute) featurette which contains nothing noteworthy.
Equilibrium is the kind of film that makes me glad that I work for a DVD review site. Selecting the odd little-known film can be fraught with risks, but you will occasionally come across one that makes you glad not everyone feels the need to adhere to the Hollywood system. Putting aside comparisons with numerous films (a list of them is mentioned in the comm by Wimmer), the story is interestingly drawn, the film looks stylish, and the use of the fictional Gun Kata as central to the action creates a unique visual dynamic that will probably find imitators in the not too distant future.
Granted, the DVD falls far short of being a comprehensive survey of the production and genesis of the idea, but the two comms, the sharp visuals and considered audio make this a DVD definitely worth giving a look into. Go on, get off your butt and go rent it. Let me know if you liked it. I crave your attention. I love you all. I don’t wanna live without you, I need you by my side... something something something magic carpet ride.