“In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man’s inhumanity to man – his ability to feel.”
Equilibrium is a 2002 action-adventure set in a dystopic future in which humanity (or at least a large portion of it) has decided that the passions which drove us are what nearly caused our destruction, and so now everyone – from childhood on – is given a drug called Prozium, which leaves intellect and will unaffected but neutralizes emotion of all kinds. In such a world, of course, the greatest crime is to feel – sadness, love, hate, joy, even the wonder of artworks or the appeal of stories.
John Preston is one of the enforcers in this new world, hunting down those who threaten the safety of the world by daring to revel in their emotionality. Preston is a Tetragrammaton Cleric (called a Grammaton Cleric, or simply Cleric, for short) trained in multiple martial arts but most of all in the art called the “gun katas”:
“The gun katas. Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically predictable element. The gun kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents while keeping the defender clear of the statistically traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120%. The difference of a 63% increase to lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly.”
This monologue is accompanied by a demonstration in-story, in which Preston takes out an incredible number of opponents in the dark, tracking them only by the flashes of the gunfire in the room and his knowledge, through the gun kata, of where they are and where they will fire.
This is, of course, a patently ridiculous idea. Not only wouldn’t it work in detail, it wouldn’t even work as a concept.
Except that, naturally, it is awesome on the screen.
Equilibrium runs on two major fuels, atmosphere and awesome, in pretty much equal parts. John Preston is played by Christian Bale, who would later go on to play the Batman – and whose performance in this movie pretty much proved to me that he should play the Batman. Preston is a coldly handsome but utterly implacable enforcer until he accidentally misses a dose of Prozium and then encounters a particular group of “offenders” who have spent so much effort defending things (like works of art) that his dormant emotions begin to awaken while he tries to understand what they are doing and why.
The rest of the movie is a tense cat-and-mouse game in which Preston must first hide his growing emotionality which he is coming to value, then come to terms with loss, and assist in the hunting of other “offenders” while actually looking for the small resistance that needs someone like him to reach the leaders of Libria, the new world order. The chill, gray atmosphere of Libria dominates the mood of this contest between Preston, his supposedly unemotional rivals, the resistance that is desperately hoping to bring Preston to their side, and those controlling the true power of Libria.
This dark chess match is punctuated by duels of awesome, with the ludicrously cool gun kata featured heavily.
Equilibrium is a movie that takes its cool so seriously that it substitutes for reason and logic. There are multiple points at which if I stopped and THOUGHT about what was happening, there were SO many holes in it that the entire movie would fall apart… and then my brain just said “shut up and watch!”. That’s some serious, serious cool factor, since usually things like that will get me to walk out at worst, and constantly whine at best.
But instead, I just enjoyed the hell out of this movie. Equilibrium is a man-versus-dystopia film with somewhat similar spirit, if different plot, to “V for Vendetta”, but Preston fills the role of both V and Evey, both the avenger and the one that follows the path that leads to vengeance and liberation. It also has a completely awesome climax which has to be seen to be believed.
It’s well worth a watch or three!