Equilibrium (2002)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/23/17
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Cast: Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, Angus Macfadyen, William Fichtner, Sean Bean

John Preston (Christian Bale) is an elite Grammaton Cleric in a future society where emotions are chemically supressed and having feelings is a crime that's punishable by death. He's a gifted and highly effective agent who spends his days killing social deviants and destroying anything of cultural or artistic value. His life gets turned upside down when he misses a dose of his daily drugs and starts to feel things, which inspires him to join the underground resistance and overthrow the government. But is he the savior of the revolution or the instrument of its downfall?

This bleak sci-fi action film is the stylistic predecessor of Kurt Wimmer's disappointing "Ultraviolet" (2005) and introduces Wimmer's firearm-based martial arts style called "gunkata." The action scenes are well staged, but occasionally frustrating due to overly enthusiastic editing. Christian Bale, Taye Diggs, and Angus Madfadyen are all physically capable players and appear to perform most of their own stunts, which is nice to see. While the gunplay often ventures into absurdity, the swordplay is extremely well done, and the highlight of the film is a sparring match between Bale and Diggs in an empty dojo.

The acting is quite good and all of the actors deliver excellent performances. Sean Bean has a wonderful cameo at the beginning of the film and a soulful William Fichtner makes an excellent resistance leader. Christian Bale is a fine actor and portrays Preston with surprising depth and unflinching authority, but I simply don't like him. The visual effects are pretty weak, but fairly typical for low budget films at the time. The film obviously borrows heavily from Orwell's "1984", Huxley's "Brave New World", and Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" to create its dystopian society and grim world view, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's definitely not a "feel good" movie, but it has enough stylized action to keep it from drowning in philosophical hopelessness and despair.