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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Equilibrium"


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Christian Bale, Taye Diggs
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In a fascist future where all forms of feeling are illegal, a man charged with enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system. That's the basic premise of "Equilibrium", the latest formula flick from Kurt Wimmer, whose past writing and directing credits are sparse and unimpressive (except for 1999's "Thomas Crown Affair"). Unfortunately, this film adds another clone to the already deep stack of similarly-themed films, even the most mediocre of which is better.

The backdrop is a future world where the any sort of emotion - love, hate, passion, creativity, anything - is ultimately thought to be the foundation for war. And to avoid war at all costs, the new global government has outlawed all forms of expression. Only zombie-like inexpressive people inhabit the Earth, who are controlled by a daily dose of "Prozium." (Self-administered, no less.) Enter Christian Bale's character, John Preston, "thought cop". He arrests people for "sense crimes", where people express emotions against the law. The crime is punishable by death. One day, when Preston accidentally breaks his morning dose of Prozium, his mind begins to sense feelings again, which leads to his realization that something's wrong with this system after all.

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Christian Bale, Emily Watson
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When making films based on Orwell's classic theme of a police state run by an anonymous and fatherly figure like Big Brother, a director is forced to satisfy at least one of three audiences: the intellect-philosopher, the adolescent/young adult, or the artistic aficionado. In the first case, movies such as "1984", involve the philosophical exploration of how and why police states are formed, and what life might be like within it. These often lead to perspectives that somehow relate to today's society. That doesn't happen here. On the other hand, adolescent films deal use the theme more as a backdrop to justify scenes involving hand-to-hand combat or impressive high-tech combat scenes, like "The Matrix". Finally, the artful genre, such as "Brazil", depicts the future less directly, in more symbolic ways, by its cinematography, set design, computer graphics. Each of the example films noted here reach their intended audience because they exploit the requisite characteristics of that demographic.

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Taye Diggs
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The problem with "Equilibrium" is that it isn't quite sure which audience it wants to please. This is a kind way of saying that it tries all of them, but does none of them well. The movie tries to pose philosophical questions, but too sophomorically to be taken seriously. It presents some testosterone-laden shoot-em-up scenes that aren't too bad for the younger male audiences, but they are too few and far between to keep them interested during the slower parts. And while a ton of money clearly went into the set design and cinematography, there's nothing unique or interesting, let alone stuff we haven't seen before to please the artistic community.

In short, the movie just plain sagged. I wouldn't even bother renting it.

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