Friday, 26 September 2014

Equilibrium (2002)

When I saw the film of Fahrenheit 451, I found it very slow and a bit dull.  When I later read the novel, I added pretentious as well: I didn't care for the snobbish overtone of "printed fiction is more worthwhile than visual fiction".  Or to be more succinct: "Books rule, TV drools".

Don't get me wrong: I love books.  I own far too many of them.  But there are many good films and TV shows out there, which tell interesting stories of their own.  And there are plenty of trivial, substance-free books.

This film seems to me at the very least to be a response to the first problem: because this is Fahrenheit 451 with a ton of kung fu/gunplay action baked in.  Where it stands on the second is a little more subjective.

After a Third World War in the early 21st Century, the survivors abolish what they perceive as the cause of war: emotions.  Hatred and anger are the catalyst for violence.  Suppress them, and there will be no risk of a Fourth World War.  Of course, suppressing emotions means the good ones as well as the bad, but joy and love are worth sacrificing for an end to warfare and murder, right?

Unfortunately, there are things out there that can cause us to feel, even when we don't want to.  Books and art and music and computer games and TV and movies.  These things are therefore outlawed.  The script specifically references cases of the first three during the movie, as well as other pleasures such as a pleasing fragrance.  Ironically though, its main use of film is as a medium of oppression and control.

In any case, the chief agents tasked with hunting down 'sense offenders' and the contraband they traffic are the Grammaton Clerics.  One of the most senior of this order is John Prescott, who is implacable, unfeeling death on legs to those who oppose the regime.  Or at least, he is until a worm of doubt begins to crawl into his mind.  What will happen when the man tasked to destroy art and beauty finds himself compelled to preserve it, and can he keep his change of heart a secret from his former masters?

The film does a pretty good job of the keeping all its "balls in the air" plot-wise.  There are a couple of fumbles that you might need a bit of handwaving to deal with but most of the big questions get answered and in the mean time you have a solid cast and well-staged action sequences to keep you occupied.

If you're looking for a fun action romp and don't mind it with some Science Fiction trimmings, this is worth a watch.

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