Welcome to the first Movie Reelz: Flashback. When I’m waiting in between movie releases or just come across a random movie that I think should get some love, I will blog about it and give it the kudos it may or may not deserve. Since these movies have been out for a minimum of five years, there are no spoiler alerts for any of them. First up on the list, Equilibrium!
The story on how I discovered this movie is actually slightly more entertaining than just saying I scrolled past it on Netflix and saw Christian Bale’s face staring intensely at me from the shadows. While I was an undergraduate student studying the intricacies of the English language, I fell in with an unusual crowd (not quite cosplayer group, not quite legitimate club). This group enjoyed wrecking havoc on the quad every Saturday morning at an ungodly hour with swords made out of PVC pipe, pool noodles, and an insane amount of duct tape. If you got really good you could upgrade to a golf club shaft instead of PVC. When these wanna-be ninja knights weren’t trying to beat each other unconscious, they would watch movies that were equally violent.
Enter Equilibrium, released in 2002.
All I knew beforehand was that it was “The Matrix” before the actual “The Matrix” came out. I still can’t say whether or not that’s accurate. I can say I’ve actually seen Equilibrium far more than I have seen The Matrix because this movie appeals to me on many levels.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, it is technically a post-apocalyptic story set sometime after the end of World War III in ironically named Libria, well after civilization has managed to drag itself back to semi-decent state. The leaders of the Tetragrammaton that evolved from this time of crisis determined that emotion was the root of all evil and that if everyone could be reduced to a pacified “neutral” state through the use of the well-timed medication Prozac – I mean Prozium, the world would be a much better place. Obviously, there was disagreement. To keep the “sense offenders” at bay (i.e. owning a book, using perfume, even thinking about love) an elite police force known as the Grammaton Clerics was formed; all of whom became well versed in the Gun Kata – strategically placing yourself for maximum casualties, minimum bullets, and minimal movement (You can now see why it appealed to my fellow sword-wielding enthusiasts). It is a fascinating blend between martial arts and gun usage that I’ve never seen used elsewhere.
This is where we find our hero, Christian Bale, under the generic name of John Preston. He is one of the top ranking clerics and is somehow, despite their ban on feelings, still trying to raise two small children as a single parent. His wife was unfortunately labeled as a sense offender and cremated alive (did I forget to mention that was their punishment? Oops). When he is forced to shoot his partner Partridge – the amazing Sean Bean who can rarely stay alive for an entire movie – for sense offense, this leads John Preston down a road of self-discovery, rebellion, and eventual over-throw of the current regime. Throw in a randomly adorable puppy and you have a hit.
This movie can be described primarily as minimalist. The overall visuals of 99% of the movie appear in shades of gray, black, and white. This is to highlight anything that could be associated with feeling stand out in a very vivid contrast. If you visualize the black and white pictures where a single red rose is highlighted, you will realize what kind of imagery the director, Kurt Wimmer, was attempting to achieve.
To continue the minimalist theme, there is actually very little dialogue because most of the story is told through images and sound. In fact, the few people who do make grandiose speeches end up dead in very short order. Klaus Badelt was chosen to score this particular movie and if you are familiar with his style (think Pirates of the Caribbean or Gladiator), you will understand. It’s always there, lurking under the dialogue and visuals, a thrum in the back of your mind until it comes to a powerful crescendo at key points in the movie. He is brilliant at building the scenes and helps bring the movie together.
The story is not hard to grasp. Yet for some reason, it is still a captivating movie. It could be because those who are “sense offenders” stand out so well and their lines are delivered with such passion that you can’t help but fight for their cause. Maybe it’s because it highlights the importance of emotions and letting yourself feel rather than attempting to ignore/bury/eradicate them. It could also be the spectacularly delivered lines that offer a small bit of comedy. The lines are so well timed that even now as I’m writing all I have running through my head is the Preston’s reaction when asked if he was willing to pay the price and he replies with, “I pay it gladly.”
Through those fun-filled college years, I watched many movies with that crew. I was introduced to movies such as 300 (which they could quote/mimic verbatim – swords remember?) and Sin City (which I still can’t understand the point of), but the one that has stuck the most with me throughout the years has been Equilibrium. It’s my go-to movie when I’m in an indefinable mood or when I’m in the mood for an awesome soundtrack.
Adults:Relatively clean for an R rated movie but worth a go if you find yourself searching for a new movie to try. It’s a good enough movie that even the well known actors disappear into their characters. Not a fast build but the actions scene are amazing!
Kids: …please don’t. While it’s not supremely gory and I know you’ve seen worse, I really don’t advocate for kids watching people get shot in the face regardless of how bloody or not it is. You see enough as it is.