I can pinpoint the exact moment that the cult classic Equilibrium burst into my consciousness, a moment that although it may be somewhat heavy-handed to describe as life-changing, certainly shook up my ‘favourite movies of all time list’ in the blink of a single bullet.

It was February 2003 and I had settled into my seat at the Swansea Odeon cinema to run the rule over some forgettable piece of trash, and along came the Equilibrium trailer.

To my acute embarrassment I had no idea what the film was (possibly due to it sinking without trace in the States) but as soon as Christian Bale started dancing around throwing his shapes my jaw hit the floor.

So much so that when the trailer ended with the line ‘How did it feel, Preston’ I was pretty close to jumping to my feet and roaring ‘Pretty f*****g amazing thanks’!

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but from the second the trailer hit the screen my brain was agog with clerics, gun-kata and a whole load of other cool mythology that director Kurt Wimmer came up with for this project.

When the film did come along less than a month later I made damn sure I was there on opening night, and boy did/does the film deliver.

A quick synopsis for those that have yet to see this (and that is probably the majority of you): the flick is set a few decades into the future, when a host of large-scale wars have torn society apart.

In a very 1984-style move, the powers-that-be decide the best way to remedy the situation is to forcibly remove emotion from everyday life, as they argue that no emotion equals no anger and therefore no violence or bloodshed.

To enable this radical change in society, the population are forced to inject themselves on a daily basis with a cocktail of drugs keeping their feelings in check.

Of course, not everybody is happy to go along with this, and an underground group of resistance ‘sense offenders’ are busy plotting to overthrow society and take things back to the good old days (or bad old days depending how you see it).

To maintain the order, the ruling party have at their disposal the ultra-trained, ultra-skilled Grammaton Clerics, a cadre of assassins/police officers, who either arrest and incinerate or simply kill anyone suspected of ‘feeling’.

Bale stars as John Preston, the most decorated of these clerics, who during the course of the film undergoes a radical character transformation as he switches from unswerving servant of the state to potential leader of the resistance.

So, what is there to love about this film?

Well, first and foremost – the action.

As a lover of cinematic gun-play who has lapped up the antics of the likes of John Woo and Robert Rodriguez over the years, I thought I had pretty much seen it all as far as how shooters could be used on screen.

But just one scene from Equilibrium showed me I was very, very wrong.

Introducing the idea of ‘gun-kata’, the clerics are true gun experts, having analysed reams of data to come up with the best body angles, the best kill points and, in my opinion, the coolest look.

With their long black coats and an icy stare, watching Bale and his cohorts in action is cinematic poetry in motion and a major selling-point of the movie.

There is plenty more to recommend – with Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs and Emily Watson in prime roles the acting prowess on display is quite high and the set design and look of the film really sets the mood.

There is something about a dour, futuristic setting that always seems to get me and when you throw in top-notch action that is a pretty tasty dish on which to feast on.

Sadly the film failed on these shores also (although it did take more at the box office than during its dismal US run) and with the images thrown to the press on its release the movie was hastily dismissed as a mere Matrix rip-off and nothing more.

But that does Equilibrium scant justice, and anyone who has not yet set their eyes on this it comes with Movie Rambling’s hearty recommendation.

Director Wimmer followed this up with the truly woeful Ultraviolet (starring Milla Jovovich) which, if anything, merely highlighted the brilliance he created with Equilibrium.

I really cannot praise this film enough, and if an action film ever comes along that tops it in my book, then that will be a truly great movie.

 

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.