Review from Test Screening

Last Update: 01 July 2001

Source: Ain't It Cool News

June 2001

Review from a test screening - no release date

For the educated, this film is reminiscent of "Fahrenheit 451." For the uneducated, this is like having a strict Catholic mother who doesn't want you thinking for yourself or doing anything for yourself: she wants to run the show.

The setting is the near future (not sure about that, no dates were given) where the general philosophy is that--after World War III having occured--man would clearly not survive a fourth if the ability to feel emotion of any kind were to remain intact. That's where "Father," the mysterious dictator of the film who appears only on giant television screens and across blimps flying in the sky, comes in. Everything has been removed from society, everyone is the same---in other words, a bunch of commie bastards come along and take away everyone's ability to feel. They're forced to inject themselves with "Equium," a fluid that prevents them from having basic human feelings. Those who do not take their injections and cling to the past are known as "sense offenders." They are hunted down, convicted, and incinerated--thus, Fahrenheit 451 references, yadda yadda.

Christian Bale plays John Preston, a senior clerick whose job is to find the "sense offenders" and bring them to justice so to speak. After his partner is revealed to be a sense offender, he is assigned a new one played by Taye Diggs. Taye Diggs' character, Clerick Brandt, is eager to move up in the world and eerily determined to challenge Preston constantly. There's also Preston's do-gooder son who make sure Daddy takes his Equium daily.

However, there's a catch...memories of his personal past coupled with a newly arrested sense offender, Mary, played by Emily Watson, force Preston to reconsider his values and position and possibly overthrow the new order.

The film starts off rather slow, but by the end, you feel you're watching a completely different--and far more exciting film--which might not necessarily be a good thing. The inconsistencies aside, "Equilibrium" is an exciting and--especially in the last 25 minutes or so--very surprising film. Christian Bale is the clear focus of the film and the other characters are rather...well, completely..undeveloped. But Bale's enough actor for the entire film and he once again does an amazing job (DirtyWOP and I agree he was ROBBED of an Oscar nod for his impeccable turn as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho). So, we'd definitely recommend this film. We were supposedly some of the first people to see the movie, and that makes us optimistic that most of the effects will be doctored up quite nicely with some good old CGI. Unfortunately, it's quite clear this'll be another one of those underrated, Miramax/Dimension sci-fi-thrillers that quietly leaves theaters with like a $10 million box office.

Now for SPOILERS.....
The film opens with footage of Hitler, Vietnam, and countless other catastrophies. Bale enters a building with hiding sense offenders and tells his officers to shoot out the lights in the room as soon as he enters. When he enters (by running and kicking in the door that conveniently slides him into the room), the lights are shot out and there's silence and complete darkness. That is until Bale single handedly shoots about twenty hiding men to death in a matter of seconds.

This kind of action disappears from the movie for the next hour or so and that's when it kind of drags.
Anyway, after the shootout, Preston and his partner (I can't remember his name or who played him unfortunately) drive back to their headquarters and when Preston mentions that he (paraphrasing) "sees this city and it reminds me why we do what we do," his partner asks "It does?" Preston looks at him curiously and the partner repeats himself by STATING "It does." When he goes back to the council to report on the day's events, they reveal that his wife was a sense offender (subsequently put to death) and ask him how it got passed such a seasoned officer like himself. Naturally, he doesn't have an answer.
Later Preston, knowing something is fishy, rewatches a tape of the two speaking and repeatedly listens to that "it does." He decides his partner is a sense offender and must get him to "turn himself in," which basically means he'll be put to death. When he confronts his partner, who refuses to turn himself in, Preston is forced to kill him himself.

Completely emotionless, Preston goes home to his two children. His son, played by a very creepy child, is straight out of Village of the Damned and makes sure his father takes his injection of Equium, the substance that will block any form of emotion. When Preston accidentally drops his vile of Equium, he rushes to get some more. However, by the time he reaches the lab or whatever it is, he's begun to feel--and decides that maybe he doesn't want to take the equium anymore.

Fast forward to Taye Diggs, his new partner, who tells him he intends on making a name for himself by being Preston's partner. OK, let me say this right now. It becomes very obvious right in the beginning that Clerick Brandt is up to no good--or maybe its just because of Diggs' HORRIBLE acting. DirtyWOP slightly disagrees with me, but I must say, Diggs is probably a very nice guy in real life and it shows in his acting. He's not a good villain at all (good thing he signed himself to reprise his role in RENT...hopefully Spike Lee won't fuck it up too badly, but we're getting off subject). He pops in and out of the film in brief scenes. Normally this would bother me, but since I wasn't "Digg"ing his performance (hahaha, pat on the back for myself), I didn't mind much.

Anyway, at another sense offender bust, Mary O'Brien, is apprehended and her refusal to talk prolongs her death at first. Then, it is Preston who prolongs her death by going in to interrogate her, hoping to learn more about the underground society of those who "feel." However--here's another problem--Watson doesn't have a supporting role so much as a cameo or guest appearance. She's powerful and angry (reminiscent of a young Lena Olin) but sorely underused. She disappears from the film for a while and returns only so we can discover that she and Preston's former partner were lovers, and then she's put to death. No more Miss Watson.

The film is a series of moments where Preston is struggling with what society has become and desperately trying to uncover the secrets of the underground society that exists. There's a great scene where, following a sense offender bust, a lot full of dogs are found and the officers begin mercilessly shooting the pups (very hard to listen to the sounds of all those dogs in pain). When a puppy escapes into Preston's arms, his feelings immediately overwhelm him and he makes up an excuse to take the dog for disease testing. He can't bear to see the puppy die and after several failed attempts to set the dog free, he decides to take it with him. The "evil" Diggs, however, spots him with the dog and informs other officers to show up on the spot instantly. They insist on seeing what is in his trunk (the dog) and when they discover the dog and order Preston to his knees, he crosses his arms and guns presumably attached to the sleeves of his jacket slide out. He once again kills multiple men single-handedly. But this time, he's killed his "own" kind--which was received to thunderous applause.

For the remainder of the movie, Preston is dodging the powers that be and concealing the fact that he now has feelings again. There is a brief appearance by William Fichtner who plays the leader of the underground "feelers" society. He convinces Preston to help save mankind by assinating the "Father" who controls things.

The last few minutes of the film are jam-packed with surprises and twists. These last minutes are exciting as hell and a lot of fun to watch (as Bale proves himself a fantastic action star --- hmm, maybe they should look into casting him as the new Batman..?) but when a film saves all its energy for the very end, ehhhh...

Preston's evil son turns out to not be taking his Equium (so he's not so evil anymore), Brandt has Preston arrested but Preston turns the cards on him in a rather clever scene where he frames Brandt just by using his common sense--though the thrill of the scene is quickly dispelled by the VERY NEXT scene where we're told the tables were turned on Brandt WILLING with the help of "Father" just to confuse Preston (and simultaneously confuse the audience). Appropriately, Preston--again, single handedly--slaughters dozens of security officers and does away with Diggs and "Father" (sorry, I can't remember who plays "Father"--actually, there are TWO people playing "Father" because Preston's boss' secret identity is revealed, etc....I left it out because, while just a minor revelation, it is too long and complicated to explain when its really not all that significant). The scene where he kills Diggs is quite awesome--and again, drew applause from the entire crowd: Brandt coyly approaches Preston with a sword-type weapon and warns him that he intends to kill him quickly because he plans on wearing his suit for a long, long time. Literally two seconds later, Preston slashes Brandt across the torso and face. Brandt slowly falls to his knees and slouches over--and then HALF OF HIS FACE SLIDES OFF!!!!! I kid you not - it's a crazy ass, gory, and creative effect that had the audience gasping--and I cannot wait to see the F/Xs when they are all fixed up.

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