We are not equal. We never will be, we never have been. And as long as they're teaching little children to understand their surroundings with asinine questions like, "what's different in these two pictures?" we will continue to be programmed to acknowledge and have issues with those differences, rather than embracing them. Or, for that matter, embracing those uncanny commonalities that bring us together. That is, when those commonalities result from something other than a heightened lust for primetime television programming. But, I digress.
But I'm not rambling for the sake of some cynical outburst reflecting a doomed future of humanity. I want to speak of Kurt Wimmer. The year 2002 brought us a memorable, yet obscure cinematic feature, bearing the writing and directing talents of Wimmer. Equilibrium. Yes, another film toying with the ideas of 1984 and Brave New World, as so many filmmakers before him have hoped to bask in the reflected glory of some of history's greatest literature. But what made Equilibrium unequaled by any other effort of similar nature, was the class, style, and decisive simplicity of the whole production.
I didn't think it would be necessary for me to sit here and bleed praise for a personal favorite piece of cinema. But having just subjected myself to a merciless review *ahem* that revealed a blinding ignorance and lack of taste on behalf of the critic, as well as a grossly liberal use of quotation marks, I feel it is important as one who can appreciate the simple elegance of a lesson we must never forget, to defend this film with its own merits, rather than with inarticulate whines reflective of narrow, self-indulgent opinions and shallow, sheltered points of view. This was a great film. I lack any appropriate adjective to truly describe and reflect the integrity of this work, but it had just that, integrity. Dignity. Class.
Is it cliche to tell of a ominous future of desperate conformity, and an uncompromising control over personal lives? Yes. Why, yes indeed, that's been done before! But, then again, hasn't everything been done before? The premise of Equilibrium is a classic one: in a bleak future with nothing to live for, one who enforces the white-knuckled grasp upon the citizens has a revelation of sorts, fulfills the expectations of a dynamic character, learns a valuable lesson, experiences a sizable loss, and proves themselves a hero, one way or another. Yes, I know, we've seen it all before. But this idea, this concept, it's been used over and over again because it works. And no matter how many 1984ish, Farenheit 451ish, or Brave New Worldish plots develop out there, and no matter how many you sit through, it will never stop being an inescapable lesson for us to learn, remember, and reflect on. Step outside yourself and your comfortable, safe surroundings. Look objectively at our society. What we're becoming. Isn't that cause enough to worry? Isn't that reason enough to produce medium after medium of warning to these earthly inhabitants of what we must forever avoid becoming?
Equilibrium's specific premise is this: after WWIII, world powers came to the understanding that there was no way the human race could ever survive another conflict so devastating, and finally went to the root of conflict instead of just trying to throw treaties and embargoes and offensive strikes around where needed to try and patch up the mess that world affairs tend to be. The root of the conflict being, obviously, human emotion. Those evil chemical reactions, making us feel things, that make us want to DO things. With the aid of a new drug, Prozium, the citizens of Libria no longer have to worry about such pesky thoughts, and become solemn, grey, dull, but oh-so-productive members of society. And it must be mentioned, that all things that may inspire or encourage the practice of "feeling" are highly illegal contraband, or as you might know them: art and culture and beauty and music and poetry and colour and life. And all those other things that we live for. All those things that we'd die for.
John Preston, portrayed distinguishedly by Christian Bale, is a Grammaton Cleric. It is his job, his calling, his *duty* to scour the fluidly functioning machine of a city for "sense offenders," those defiant persons who cast aside their daily interval and hoard away treasures of any measure of sentimental value, willing to die for it. Willing to die, for the chance to live? Now yes, I will admit, that does sound a bit trite, but, to anyone who has been deeply moved, moved to the point of being unable to stand it (being moved by something other than a made for tv movie), it may sound cliche, but it should sound true. Just because it's predictable, doesn't mean it's any less valuable to the soul. In fact, it's always those eternal ideas and fears that are so familiar, haunting even. Of course they would follow a formula. The human condition follows a formula. Do we then merely dismiss it?
The fight scenes. I fail to understand how even the most sloped foreheads could not furrow in intrigue upon viewing the spectacular choreography and stylish composition of these sequences. Unlike "The Matrix," suspension wires and special effects aren't exploited to the point of suffocation; these moves aren't overdone with gratuitous acrobatics, they are purely and simply just the smoothly executed piruoettes and the coldly confident carryout of traditional techniques. The key with the action in Equilibrium, is simple composition. It just looks good. To anyone who has ever taken a photography class or critiqued a painting, or to those who just have a natural eye for this kind of thing, the utter stylishness of the framing, the layout of scenes, the movement of cameras, the angles of shots, they all fluidly add up to a *feel* to the movie that is nothing short of powerful. What some reviewers *ahem* can't seem to see is how that visual power so effectively and seamlessly reinforces the literal meanings and messages behind the film, with every faction of filmmaking working together to produce a film that is more than just actors playing a story, it is a complete work of art. Complete, and also, quite importantly, unified, and standing solid upon its own. It remains free from unnecessary tangles in the storyline, the tale shoots straight and simple, such a basic moral and concept at work here, but it is in the simplicity that the impact acquires its power. Again, simplicity in story with corresponding simplicity in direction.
We should not let ourselves overlook the fact that it is often the most simple, obvious, reiterated message that we need to hear the most. Or that an expression of what we already know is often the boldest and deepest reaching. "You have been found guilty of the crime of feeling." In a world where even the most simple and pure of feelings are outlawed, it would be the little things that make you feel the most. And the makeup of the film does nothing short of reflect that, yet again, for though the most emotional scenes are so simple and yes, cliche, it is in their lack of complexity that we are allowed to feel so intensely. The depths of joy and the heights of pain--without one we cannot have the other. I don't think you can remind people nearly enough of the importance of that essential balance, of the universal truth that with every up there is a down, of the significance of remembering that even the greatest sorrows are all ultimately worth it.
I feel sorry for anyone that has failed to appreciate this motion picture for the boldly dignified work of art that it is. I feel sorry for anyone that scoffed at the incredible acting ability of someone that can portray a character that doesn't feel anything. I feel sorry for anyone that failed to be moved by this film for reasons of their own emotional inhibitions, their own unwillingness to let go.
But I can only hope there are more people out there that will be able to find themselves speechless after this film. Those who have eagerly and impatiently made everyone they know sit down and watch it. Those who take stock of whatever wonderful or rotten emotions and experiences they're struggling with at the moment, and despite how bad it can be, they remind themselves of how fortunate they are to be capable of feeling this deeply at all. To feel so strongly. To have something matter so much. To allow something touch your soul.
This is a phenomenal work of cinema. I suggests that every out there should see it, at least once. If it is not all that I have ranted and poured my very heart out about, I apologize, I have wasted 107 minutes of your life. But if it makes anyone think, if it makes anyone question, if it moves anyone at ALL near to the point it has moved me, then it is 107 minutes of life well spent. Really, who doesn't have less than two hours to spare, when the reward has a possibility to be so magnificent.
At least spare 107 minutes of your life for this endeavor, because I've already spent near that amount just writing my abridged praise for the film. I didn't intend for my rambling to escalate to such a length, but one must defend what they think is beautiful.
One must always defend what they believe in.