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Underrated Gems: Equilibrium

Animeman73Feb 3, 2020, 6:14:58 AM

Greetings and salutations from the Pacific Northwestern U.S. Welcome to a brand-new series on my channel called Underrated Gems, where we look at movies that underperformed at the box office which are actually quite good. Incidentally, this series, and this episode were inspired by a commentary by one Dave Cullen, specifically on his channel The Dave Cullen show. So, yeah Dave, you inspired me to do this, therefore this is all your fault.

In the history of movie making, there are good films and bad films. Then there are those good films which fly under the radar, those underrated gems which deserve more respect. That's what this series is all about, movies that were passed over, for one reason or another. Here they'll be discussed, and given the praise they deserved. The movie that will be commented on here, is a low-budget Sci-Fi film from 2002, Equilibrium. Be warned, there will be some spoilers here, and this is not a film for the faint of heart, since it is rated R. 

Get ready for a dark futuristic movie.

The year is 2072, In the aftermath of World War III, the remaining world leaders sought to create a new society to ensure there is no World War IV. That new society, came in the form of the City-State Libria. Within the confines of this new world, people are forced daily to take a drug called Prozium II, which curtails all human emotion. While it has eliminated the darker emotions of humanity, it has been at the cost of love, compassion, empathy, etc. Very 1984-esque isn’t it?

Beware the Clerics!

Those who do not take Prozium are considered Sense Criminals, which are enemies of the Libria city-state. Things of sentimental value, such as music, art, and culture are considered contraband. The law is enforced by a Brutal police force and Super-Soldiers known as Clerics, all enforcing the will of the Tetragrammaton Council and their leader, known only as Father. Oddly enough, Father never shows his face to the public, only appears before the Council, but his visage is seen all over the city broadcasting all sorts of propaganda. Again, very 1984-like and very cult-level creepy. Because of the Prozium II, no one has ever taken the time to wonder about why Father never shows himself, definitely not a Star Trek type future.

John Preston, the film protagonist, is a first Class Grammaton Cleric, played magnificently by Christian Bale. He is an elite Cleric, a widower, and single father raising a son Robbie, and daughter Lisa, played by Matthew Harbour and Emily Stewart. This is because Preston's dead wife, played by Maria Pia Calzone, was discovered to be a Sense Offender and was summarily executed.

After a brutal suppression of a resistance group in the Nethers, an area outside Libria, Preston notices his partner, Cleric first class Errol Partridge, played by Sean Bean, taking a book of poems by W.B. Yeats. Uh-oh, there’s a Fahrenheit 451 moment coming. When Preston discovers that Partridge hasn't turned in the illegal book, he follows his partner to the Nether. Within a ruined cathedral, Preston confronts his partner. After speaking of emotion, Partridge makes Preston kill him in a suicide by cop move.

Uh-oh busted, this won't end well. 

Afterwards, Preston goes home and accidentally misses his daily dosage of Prozium. He begins to experience emotions such as fear from the nightmare he has, to even the simplest joy of feeling the sun on his face. 

Who'd have ever thought something as simple as enjoying watching the sun rise would become an unexpected act of rebellion?

Meanwhile, the Cleric is assigned a new partner, a ruthless career-oriented man named Brandt, played superbly by Taye Diggs. Preston’s emotional confusion begins to worsen as he’s faced with two things that exacerbate it. First, is the interrogation of a Librian woman Mary O'Brien, played by Emily Watson. The second, is during a raid in which a group of dogs is ruthlessly gunned down, Preston actually saves a puppy from execution, making the excuse that it needs to be checked for disease. Gunning down dogs, that’s no way to treat man’s best friend. 

Meet Preston's new partner. yeah this guy's REALLY trustworthy.

What is this strange creature?

As the film progresses, Preston is forced to maintain his monotone, emotionless state, first in front of his son, then in front of an increasingly suspicious Brandt. It starts to reach the point where Preston is even forced to repeat dialogue to maintain his cover.

Soon, Preston is involved in activities that are highly illegal. First, he kills a number of police officers to save the puppy he rescued, then starts to rearrange his desk going in direct contradiction to the conformity enforced by Libria. More and more, the Cleric shows the same emotional state Partridge exhibited at the beginning of the movie. He even goes as far as to refuse to kill resistance members, thusly drawing more suspicion from Brandt. 

More and more signs of rebellion against the system show.

Soon, Preston is summoned before Vice-Counsel Dupont of the Tetragrammaton Council, played by Angus Macfadyen. He explains to Preston that he believes there is a traitor in the Clerics. Preston explains he is trying to infiltrate the resistance in order to destroy it. Dupont makes it clear he wants Preston to find this traitor and eliminate him. In the course of the scene, it’s shown Vice-Counsel Dupont actually displays some emotion, specifically rage. Wait just a second, isn’t emotion forbidden to all the people of Libria? What’s going on here?

The Cleric soon makes contact with the resistance, and agrees to kill Father, played by Sean Pertwee. The plan is, with Father dead, the confusion that will ensue will be long enough for the resistance to set off bombs strategically placed in the Prozium factories around Libria. This is meant to hopefully bring down the Tetragrammaton Council. However, things start to go awry when Preston witnesses the execution of Mary O’Brien, in Libria’s furnaces. Ooh, nasty way to go.

There is the look of a woman who knows she's as good as dead.

Preston walks out into the street and begins to weep uncontrollably. In an emotionless society like Libria, that’s a bad idea. Preston is arrested by Brandt and dragged before Vice-Counsel Dupont. Brandt thinks he’s set for that promotion he craves. Preston however, turns the tables on the emotionless schemer, by clever use of evidence and psychology to trick the Vice-Counsel into thinking Brandt is the traitor. Brandt is taken away, and Preston is thusly cleared of any charges. The Cleric returns home to destroy his stash of Prozium, following a routine police search, and is confronted by his son. Robbie reveals that he and his sister haven’t taken Prozium for some time. Way to go kids, that’s one way to stick it to the man, yeah.

Here's some youthful rebellion that should be encouraged!

The Underground engage in an elaborate plot, by turning themselves in to Preston. He then gets the Vice-Counsel to arrange a meeting with Father. At said meeting, things start to go awry again. Preston is confronted by Father, who knows about Preston’s Sense Offense. Then, Preston discovers that Brandt’s arrest was arranged as a cover to lull the top Cleric into letting his guard down. The image of Father then changes to that of Vice-Counsel Dupont, who reveals Father has been dead for some time and the Council elected him head of state. Very sneaky Dupont, very sneaky.

Oh Dupont, you sneaky hypocritical so and so!

While rage can be a destructive emotion, when channeled and controlled properly, it can also make someone deadlier. This proves to be the case with the rogue Cleric. He reveals he has a hidden set of guns on him, which were undetectable even to the best of security measures. The Cleric then goes on a rampage where he takes down the heavy security of Father’s facility. Oops, surprise!

Rage unchecked is dangerous, but rage controlled is far deadlier!

Preston bursts into the large room Brandt and Dupont are in. Arrogantly, the scheming career-minded Cleric thinks taking down his opponent won’t take long. Fatal mistake Brandt, any good martial artist knows you never underestimate an enemy. The rogue Cleric demonstrates why this is so, as he takes Brandt down quickly…and in a rather gruesome fashion. Dupont and Preston face off in a fast-paced battle of masters of the Cleric martial art of Gun-kata. 

Gun-kata Masters fighting! This is going to get good!

Somehow, Preston gains the upper hand over Dupont. The leader of the Tetragrammaton council then reveals that he’s not been taking Prozium for some time. So, let me get this straight, everyone in Librian society has to take Prozium II to suppress their emotions, but because of his standing Dupont doesn’t have to? Yeah, that’s hypocrisy at its finest. Preston is asked by Dupont if it’s worth it to see him dead and overthrow Librian society. Ironically, the rogue Cleric's answer was the same one Partridge gave to Preston before his death, “Yes, it is”.

Killing the tyrannical leader of Libria, Preston then smashes the communication center where Father’s messages of propaganda are broadcast from. This allows the Underground resistance to blow up the Prozium plants, and start a massive riot where the authoritarian police are gunned down. The movie ends with Preston, in satisfaction, bearing witness to the beginning of the brutal Tetragrammaton Council’s downfall.

What makes this movie an underrated gem? Well there are many reasons, they are as follows.

Christian Bale displays a range of emotions as he slowly transforms from cold and cruel killer to desperate revolutionary. Thereby showing the kind of superb acting chops he has.

John Preston's subtle change is played well by Christian bale.

Taye Diggs as the vicious and scheming Brandt is the sort of subtle villain you just love to hate. Well played Mr. Diggs, well played! 

Taye Diggs's chaacrter is a schemer...and so well done!

Emily Watson’s heart wrenching performance as the doomed woman stirs up emotions, especially when she’s stepping into the Librian Furnace knowing she’s as good as dead. Tugging at heartstrings works every time. 

The look of a woman who knows she's as good as dead, and yet still rbeels. Talk about courage.

Angus Macfadyen does a terrific job as the villainous and hypocritical Vice-Counsel.

Vice-Counsel Dupont needs to go down! Great job, Mr. Macfayden.

Another reason this movie is such an underrated gem, is its depiction of the horrors of Far-Right and Far-Left extremism. Far-Right religious dogma is shown, specifically the tenants and cult of personality of Father. Also, Far-Left extremism is shown as well, in the PETA-like idea of forbidding people to have animals as pets. From both extremes, we're shown in this movie, what authoritarianism looks like. As has been pointed out to me many times, going too far towards either extreme is most unwise.

The writing for this movie is actually pretty good, granted it’s not exactly Academy Award winning stuff, but it serves its purpose.

The fight scenes, oh, the fight scenes! The choreographed martial arts styles used in the film are magnificent. Diggs and Bale’s paired Short sword fight, however brief, was well executed. Incidentally, the paired swords resemble the wakizashi swords of Japan. The final fight between Dupont and Bale, that really made the film great. It was fast-paced and very intense, leaving a person to wonder who would come out on top.

The fight scenes were absolutely incredible!

Overall, while very dark and gritty, this film has superb writing, acting, and plot with a sense of intelligence to it. It was such a shame this movie saw limited release. It could’ve done much better, as it clearly shows you don’t need bombastic special effects in order to make a good movie. And that’s what makes Equilibrium an underrated gem.

I hope you enjoyed this first edition of Underrated Gems. Be aware that, in the future, any more editions will be behind a paywall. I just thought I’d make this a freebee, to give people an appetite. If you like this kind of original content, please like and remind this on Minds, and share the link across all social media to spread the word about my channel. You can also help by subscribing to my channel for all sorts of great content.

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I’ll leave links at the bottom to my Minds Channel, my PayPal Tip Jar, Subscribstar account, you can also follow me on Gab via a link to my profile at below as well. If you’d like to see another take on Equilibrium, I’ll leave a link to Dave Cullen’s commentary on the movie below as well. Thank you for reading this commentary, I’m Animeman73, saying stay true to yourselves stay classy, and God bless you all!


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Dave Cullen’s review of Equilibrium