Monday 19 September 2011

Equilibrium (2002) - Kurt Wimmer

In a not too distant dystopian future, World War Three has wrecked havoc.  In response, extreme measures of censorship have been undertaken and the “disease” of human emotion is cured, destroying culture, feeling and the very essence of humanity.  By curing the abysmal lows, positivity has equally been eradicated, leaving society in stasis – the titular equilibrium.

Christian Bale plays a “Cleric”, an agent dispatched to capture “sense offenders”, those who fail to take their Prosium (yes, this does trigger more than the occasional snigger).  But as the population remain anaesthetised, he stops taking the medication and gradually regains his feelings and emotions – but will he be caught?

Conceptually, the film has an assured and consistent sense of style.  Filmed in pseudo black and white, the screen is cold, matched by the stone architecture and classical structures.  With its release in the early noughties, the parallels with Iraq and its potential outcomes are unavoidable, fortified by the inclusion of archive footage from World War Two.  Further, the use of religious iconography – society led by “Father” and crosses used as a visual motif – brings connotations of genocide that make a clear political comment.  The mostly electronic score equals the futuristic tone, though is effectively balanced with orchestral instruments. 

However, there is one major influence on this film: The Matrix.  The futuristic vision shares many calculating similarities - just look at the poster (pictured).  Moreover, the action sequences, with their laughable mise-en-scene, martial arts and rock music are ripped straight from the former film, akin to a video game scenario.  For all the film's clever conceptual ideas, the action threatens to ruin it in one fell swoop, proving Equilibrium has a style that is rather unoriginal.  Thankfully, Bale’s steely focus just about rises above the wooden acting of Keanu Reeves, making for a more compelling protagonist.