Equilibrium (2002) USA / R / 107 min / 7.6 IMDB
By Roger Malcolm
“Beware of artists they mix with all classes of society and are therefore most dangerous.” -Queen Victoria(sic)
Set in the 21st Century, Equilibrium presents a society devoid of emotion, yet reminiscent of our current times. The film is written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, who has since went on to write Ultra Violet (2006), Law Abiding Citizen (2009), Salt (2010), and Total Recall (2012), as well as writing the upcoming remake of Point Break.
To achieve this emotionless society, all forms of art – such as books, paintings and music – are deemed “EC-10” for “emotional content” and suppressed by a totalitarian government controlled by its figurehead “Father.” When any form of contraband is discovered teams of heavily-armed police forces and clerics respond, destroying any and all traces. Though the most significant key to this emotionless society is a self-injected serum called Prozium, which all law-abiding citizens carry with them for their twice-a-day doses. Prozium protects all from the ramifications of emotions, such as war and hate, while a constant stream of propaganda from “Father” consistently informs the citizens of Libria.
We are introduced to Libria’s highest-ranking cleric named John Preston, played by Christian Bale. As any emotion is a threat to society, clerics have the authority to kill “sense offenders” on site. Preston is highly trained in “Gun Kata”, a form of martial art based on optimum firing angles as well as defensive postures and movements. This “Gun Kata” is essential to the pacing of the narrative, never allowing the film to become too mundane.
The overall atmosphere is dismal and dull, yet behind all that is an underground resistance of “sense offenders” that horde “EC-10” behind walls and in underground areas that have been sealed off from the rest of society. This is the main duty of clerics – to hunt down these “sense offenders” and the forbidden “EC-10”. Preston catches his own partner Partridge, played by Sean Bean, committing a “sense offense”. This sets in motion a domino effect that leads to Preston missing a dosage of Prozium. The suspense increases as a battle starts within Preston, and he must make the correct choices so as not to give away his emotions or let his poker face slip.
Equilibrium could be seen as a hybrid of films Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and THX 1138 (1971), which it most definitely is, only with the addition of scenes consisting of excellently-choreographed action. Kurt Wimmer himself created the “Gun Kata”, which he would go on to use again in his next directorial, Ultra Violet.
Kurt Wimmer executes a difficult task in creating a world consisting of characters devoid of emotion, yet still captivating. Equilibrium offers an extreme example of a society drugged down by anti-depressants. Surely it’s no coincidence the film’s drug Prozium is so very similar in name to Prozac (anti-depressant) and Valium (anti-anxiety). It’s clearly just a combination of the two, which makes the relevance seem definite.