Overview: In a dystopian future, after the outbreak of World War 3, the government controls every aspect of life. John Preston (Christian Bale) is an enforcer of the law who sets out to right all that is wrong in Libria. 2002; Dimension/Miramax; Rated R; 107 minutes
The Good: The fast-paced action scenes help soften the blow of the computer generated graphics, which on their own would turn viewers away. The quick cuts to framed faces of the characters show their emotion and help the viewers get a better feel for the struggle each character endures in Libria. There is at times a steady flowing gracefulness from second-effort director Kurt Wimmer (Ultraviolet), who has since gained recognition for his writing of Salt and Law Abiding Citizen. Christian Bale’s performance is one of the paramount parts of the film. The suppressed emotion in his portrayal of Preston is a testament to his ability as an actor. Emily Watson is solid as Mary O’Brien The interactions between Preston and O’Brien offer viewers a measurable standard to distinguish between those who are feeling and those who are not. Their facial expressions give you a sense of affection between them even though Preston has no idea what that means. With the influence of O’Brien’s affection, the frames of Preston’s expression began to evolve as he realizes what it is to feel and the impact it has on him as a human being. This measurement of budding emotion is expertly handled.
The Bad: Again, the CG is downright repugnant. The movie would have benefited by improving the quality of the effects or finding other ways to imply rather than show the intended effect. The CG shots were intended to establish the futuristic setting of the film but they could have easily been cut. There are better ways of establishing dystopian setting (think District 9 or Hunger Games; two movies that create elements of futurism with familiar and current scenery). Most of the action sequences miss the mark due to subpar stunts. John Preston’s stunt work is the only worthy of credit and the rest seems to be performed by doubles who were grabbed from a homeless shelter. Outside of Preston and O’Brien, the characters are shallow and dull, their dialogue uncommitted.
Some Cool Notes: Wimmer and a fight choreographer invented their own fighting style for the movie called “Gun Kata.” The main focus of this style is the use of guns and fast, calculated movements to eliminate the enemy as fast as possible, all while avoiding return fire.
Overall: Equilibrium shows great potential, and with a higher budget and more experienced director, that potential could have been fully realized. Despite the movie’s faults, viewers still might find some enjoyment in another great performance by Bale, frenetic action, and a compelling futuristic vision.
-by Travis Losh