Equilibrium is a 2002 science-fiction/action film directed by Kurt Wimmer. Taking place in a dystopian society where emotions are prohibited, it stars Christian Bale as John Preston, a cleric who has the job of finding and eliminating objects of artistic expression. He goes as far as to kill his own partner for so much as reading a book of poetry. There does not really seem to be room for emotions in Preston’s life.
The way that emotions are suppressed is through a drug called Prozium. Every time the bell chimes in the city of Libria, people must inject themselves with the drug. Refusal to do so results in incineration. Soon after killing his partner, Preston drops one of his doses of Prozium and neglects to get another one. The high-ranking cleric is now working with emotions, and he likes it. Can you see the turn by the protagonist coming from a mile away? Most definitely. Does that make it bad? I’m afraid that’s also a yes.
For about the first 30 minutes, I really liked Equilibrium, and almost entirely due to the fact that the entire theme was that emotions cause all conflict and should, therefore, be eliminated. That’s a really interesting concept. Once Preston gets his emotions back, the film basically just becomes boring. There are a few fight scenes, and the ending is very exciting, but the filler in between is not all that much fun to watch.
I think one of the main reasons it ends up being fairly uninteresting is the fact that the actors in the film are unable to keep a straight face. These characters, at least, most of the characters, are supposed to be more or less emotionless beings. They all seem to be skipping doses of Prozium, because almost all of them show plenty of emotion throughout. If they hadn’t, the film could have been an in-depth look at what drugs are doing to society but, instead, it just makes the entire project look silly.
Equilibrium attempts to be a deep, insightful prediction of one of the many paths that humanity can go down.
Even John Preston, the one character who actually is supposed to feel emotions can’t manage to find a balance between showing and not showing them. In society, he still needs to keep an emotionless face, but he can’t. Maybe this is done because it is near impossible to suppress emotions without the use of drugs, but even before he stops taking them, he still shows far more emotion than he should. One would also think that once he enters into his private life, he’d be able to show as much emotion as he wants, but it turns out that he doesn’t. Even at home, he still tries to keep his face a blank slate.
If the plot hadn’t taken such a turn, I feel that Equilibrium actually could have been a good movie. It could have taken a good look at society as a whole, and more prominently the way it is run. The film mostly sidesteps this, though, and decides to focus squarely on the protagonist. This isn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been, making us follow a character that we really have no desire to care for.
John Preston as a character really doesn’t get all that much development. Apart from the shift from emotionless to feeling emotion, that’s about all that happens. He changes personalities fairly suddenly, and then just stays there for the rest of the movie. His only driving force is that he feels society is doing something wrong, and decides that he should be the one to change it for the better. To do this, he uses impressive fighting techniques that he only learned because of society.
Equilibrium attempts to be a deep, insightful prediction of one of the many paths that humanity can go down. The dystopian setting only adds on to this attempt. However, the film actually isn’t all that deep. Even though pretty much all of the characters are supposed to be without emotion, the actors portraying them are unable to keep a straight face. The action scenes are fairly well done, especially one near the ending, but they are too few and far between to keep the film exciting. The most memorable thing about Equilibrium is the fact that there is a really cute dog in it. That does not work in a film’s favor, unless the film is expressly about the dog. In this case, the dog plays a small role, and yet still manages to be the most entertaining part of the entire production.
Conclusion: Equilibrium is a shallow film with pretenses of being deeper than it is.
Recommendation: Beyond the action, you have little reason to watch Equilibrium.