Jul 31, 2009

[Movies] Equilibirum (2002)

EquilibriumThe Matrix had a profound effect on movies and those effects will continue to be experience in the years to come. In fact, it's probably difficult to not attribute certain effects and styles to the influence of The Matrix, whether this is accurate or not. It's just how these things go.

It certainly brought us many new concepts like Bullet Time, although this technically first appeared in Blade, or perhaps got Hollywood addicted to Chinese style suits of a more modern style. Heck, think about those odd angled shades everyone decided to wear! The list goes on and on.

Thus it becomes highly interesting when a movie tries to build on those concepts and try to present new ideas and new visualizations in order to set itself apart. This can either work very well or it may leave something to be desired.

Equilibrium is a movie that I feel was built around a concept - the Gun Kata fighting style which supposedly claimed that you could learn to avoid the most "common" trajectories of bullets and fire back at the most possible locations of the assailants. Starting with this idea, a movie complete with backstory was written in order to showcase this idea. I know, it sounds a tad harsh, but when you see the film, it'll make some sense in that aspect. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty robust story when you consider it.

Here, man has achieved peace by escaping extreme emotions which were found to lead to violence and conflict. Thus people are now required to take mandatory timed doses of a drug called Prozium (obviously a play on Prozac and Valium combined), which prevented them from achieving extreme emotions whether good or bad, thus allowing them to maintain a balance or equilibrium. Thus the society is maintained by rigid police rule, ultimately presented in the form of the Grammaton Clerics, a special elite group who are trained in the art of Gun Kata and are charged with putting down any resistance to the regime. The greatest of these clerics is John Preston (Christian Bale), who is one of the "naturals" who can detect the slightest hint of emotion in other people. He soon discovers the possibility of emotion in his fellow Cleric Errol Partridge (Sean Bean) which leads to an even larger scale mission - to find the resistance group known as the Underground.

Sorry, that was a lengthier synopsis than normal, but it's a tad tricky to figure out how best to summarize all this.

At the core of this movie are the fight scenes, and that's pretty understandable given the director, Kurt Wimmer, and how strongly he felt about Gun Kata. It's a pretty interesting concept and he manage to execute it all rather well, giving the film that anime-style feel and yet distinct from the kind of fighting we saw in the Matrix. I can't think of a fight scene I didn't appreciate to some degree, so that's probably a good thing.

Acting was fairly decent and we can see Christian Bale really building up to the kind of acting he'd later implement in The Dark Knight. He did a pretty decent job of trying to convince the viewers he was fairly unemotional, something that the way his lips purse seems to really stress. At the same time, I'm always game to see him shirtless, haha. Just when exactly did he start becoming such a muscle man versus the way we saw him back in the day in movies like, oh I don't know, Newsies? See what I mean?

The supporting cast was just okay but in some cases a little weird. Taye Diggs didn't make for a very convincing Cleric since he smiled just way too much for me - whatever happened to showing no emotions? And don't get me started on Angus MacFadyen as DuPont since he was the most emotional of all. Kudos to Sean Bean though, he was pretty good despite being cast once more in the role of the tragic hero of sorts doomed to die.

The story as a whole definitely had an interesting concept to build on, although I didn't feel too strongly about how it was executed and ultimately resolved. There were some bits that just seemed a tad shallow although overall it still made sense and was a fairly decent tale. It certainly posed some rather interesting questions for the viewers about the whole peace through control kind of philosophy, but let's face it - this was a science fiction action movie at the core and it certainly embraced that.

So based on its merits as a fight movie, Equilibrium get 3.5 does of Prozium out of a possible 5.

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