Action and science fiction movies typically lean towards being derivative of previous works. It's the way they can usually stay accessible. If they became too inventive or strayed too far from what the audience can grasp with any ease, they become known as visionary years later when those who got it used more conventional means to present the ideas presented, until the source is made almost cliché and remains unappreciated by all but those who found it inspiring in the first place, and those people's fans. This does nothing for the original author. To say that "Equilibrium" borrows heavily from "Fahrenheit 451," with chunks of "1984," (the book, not the Van Halen album (their best in my opinion (though David Lee Roth needs to be put down (I don't advocate violence (I'm just saying...))))) in no way means the film is inferior. It simply gives us the messages of some classic cautionary fiction, without the crutch of perfectionist fans agonizing over pointless minutia. As much as like would love to see a faithful 451 film, this more than satisfied that need.
After a third world war at the beginning of this century (as if war was imminent, whatever) mankind recognizes the need to finally eliminate our destructive tendencies. War, it is explained, is rooted in emotion. People feel passionately about their beliefs, or they desire the pleasing riches spoils or war can provide, or so on. The complacent don't revolt. The content don't attack. Society as a whole has willingly adapted to a system where we self-administer a drug regularly to subdue any feeling we might have. The universal decor is bland and uninspiring. Peace be on Earth, but no joy. There is no reveling in our new world state, so what's the point? The film makes very strong points in favor of the new world state, mainly being the prevention of war, the continued survival of humanity, and the fact that we no longer feel pain or loss. These points set the tone for the world as well as giving us a frame of reference for our lead character and where his journey begins.
Christian Bale plays a cleric, a top level officer in the prosecution of sense crimes. He helps find those who are smuggling art, literature, Ernest films, happy meal toys, and those adorable velvet paintings of those kids with the big eyes standing in front of a cactus. I love those kids. Anyway, he finds them and coldly, systematically executes them. One day he accidentally loses his dose of dontfeelathinginum (okay, I can't remember what it's called and am too lazy to look it up right now) and starts to lapse into emotion. He fights it, but due to a variety of circumstances he continues to stay off of it until he falls into a crisis of faith and borders on becoming a sympathizer. I'll stop with the synopsis there since the goal is to get you to see the movie, and really, you should definitely see the movie.
Besides some good cautionary sci-fi, the film boasts some amazing action. I get down sometimes when I see a high-octane movie, and feel like maybe it wasn't so high-octane, or maybe I'm using 40 weight oil in the winter and I should use 30, or the other way around, but I see big exciting setpieces and think, in a drab Ben Stein inner voice, "Wow, this is exciting," but can't really convince myself, despite all of the explosions and roundhouse kicks. From the first gunfight on, the action in this movie rocks. It gives you the same giddy amazement as "The Matrix" or one of the Star Wars prequel lightsaber duels. There's gun fights, fist fights, sword fights, and except for the rare occasion where one or two get a bit repetitive, they'll make your eyes bug and probably utter something simple like "Bwahhawww... rock..." Don't pretend you've never had that reaction. It's just been a while. The wait is over. There's about six months until the next "Matrix." Mel Gibson's "Fahrenheit 451" is in limbo. Get your fix now.
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