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Monday, August 18, 2003  

Dystopi-Tastic
Let me preface this movie review by saying I love high-concept Sci-Fi, one of my favorite authors of all time is George Orwell, and I have always enjoyed the classic dark-future novels. That being said I don't understand why "Equilibrium" got such a bad rap. The film, written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, is very much a "post-matrix" sci-fi action flick, and stars Christian Bale (who has the chops, but doesn't get the roles) and Taye Diggs (who also deserves full-fledged stardom) as super-cops in the ultimate dystopian fascist future. The film features an excellent supporting cast including Emily Watson, Sean Bean (Boromir from Lord of the Rings,) William Fichtner, and Dominic Purcell (TV's John Doe) who all do a great job and contribute to the believability of the sci-fi future. The world is a well stirred amalgam of classic literary dystopias, starting with a firm foundation in Orwell's "1984." But here Big Brother is replaced with "The Father," Thought-crime with "sense-crime," and the thought police with "the Clerics" (more on them later.) Wimmer adds elements of Huxely's "Brave New World" with a drug that all people are required to take daily ("the Dose") to dull their senses and remove both the highs and lows of Human existence (sounds a lot like Prozac to me,) and Brabbury's "Fahrenheit 451" with guys with flame-throwers torching priceless art. The film really comes off as a homage to these literary works with little nods to each text, which I really enjoyed.

In this dark-future world, the oppressive government is policed by "Clerics of the Tertragrammicon" who are basically a secret police force of warrior-monks trained not to feel and masters of a martial-art called "Gun-Kata." This element leads to some spectacular gun-fights that owe a lot to Hong Kong action cinema. The action sequences are very "post-Matrix:" ultra-choreographed, ultra-stylized, and wonderfully shot. There is no "bullet-time" or other direct Matrix rip-offs, but rather a lot of wire-fu, slowmo, and slick effects. The film comes off much more as a sci-fi action flick influenced by the Matrix rather than trying to BE the Matrix, and I think stands on its own very well. I think my favorite moment comes in the climactic sequence where John Preston duals his nemesis in a sword fight with guns. It sounds kinda weird, but it is what I wished the Neo v. Agent Smith scene from the first Matrix was like. Equilibrium is visually striking, it was shot by Dion Beebe who also shot Best Picture winner Chicago, and had top notch production design. The direction and camera-work is an absolute joy to watch for a technical-geek like myself. I love style. I even love it over substance a lot of times, and this movie delivers style in spades. From the baroque shoot-outs to the decadent camera movements this movie looks GREAT! It is really amazing to me that it only cost 20 million, but I guess that is was you get when you go with top notch character actors and not Big Names.

I really wouldn't be surprised if you haven't ever even heard of Equilibrium. It got "released" in December of 2002 in all of 300 theaters. There was NO marketing campaign to speak of, and the film left theaters with a paltry million dollar gross. Which is really a shame, because it is really quite good. So, if you have any love for sci-fi cinema and good shoot-outs do your self a favor and check out "Equilibrium." (Link to trailer).

posted by JMV | 8/18/2003 03:43:00 PM
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