In a future where freedom is outlawed outlaws will become heroes.
Imagine if you will a world without feeling, where anything that might cause feelings are banned and the very act of feeling is a crime punishable by death. This is a world brought to life in Equilibrium, a film that many who have seen it consider a bit similar to Fahrenheit 451 if in nothing else but concept. I've found it to be an often unknown movie, something that somehow - despite being an amazing movie - has slipped quietly under the radar of the masses for no logical reason whatsoever. Well, at the very least, I can do my part to remedy that right now.
Equilibrium follows the story of a Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) who serves as the last line of defense against the "sense offenders," that is someone who commits the crime of having feelings. In the society presented in the movie, feeling is punishable by death and things such as books and art are forbidden by the government. To aid in the suppression of feelings, the masses are instructed to take a drug called Prozium, or face the very grave consequences. Being a Cleric, one of the elite policing force of the Tetragrammaton government, Preston starts the movie off not only by having to bring down a cell or two of Sense Offenders (in a very intricate, kata-based fighting style coined as "Gun-Kata" that is quite beautiful to watch), but before long ends up having to dispose of his partner and fellow Cleric (played by Sean Bean). It's around this time that things start changing for Preston, and after a missed Prozium, the plot starts to spiral.
Preston is thrust into the world of the other side - those who are labeled as Sense Offenders. He slowly starts to develop feelings and second guess his government. This is not only a very dangerous act to begin with, but made even more tense with the addition of Seamus (Dominic Purcell) , a new partner who's also been tasked with keeping an eye on Preston. Things continually ramp until the satisfying ending, and there aren't a whole lot of threads left untrimmed when it finally rolls credits.
The bonus of having a movie based on what is essentially a character discovering what it's like to feel is that it adds (however intentionally) a depth to that character. We see the changes on screen, not just visibly but mentally of Preston as he spends longer and longer off the pill and experiences more of what it is like to feel. This ranges from simple interactions (like saving a puppy) to more heart-strings flashbacks such as the summary execution of his wife after she was labeled as a Sense Offender. Tie all of that in to Preston's two kids and the stark contrasts of everyone around him still on the pill and it really emphasizes the kind of bleakness brought about when every thing and body is as much the same as possible. That being said, the main players (such as Seamus and Preston) feel very much like individuals, and it can lead to some pretty interesting thoughts on just how different people could be if they couldn't feel.
The setting here is somewhat mundane when in the main city - everything is very similar, white-washed and grey as one would expect from a place that has outlawed human emotion. Outside of that, you get broken down and destroyed buildings where the Sense Offenders are holed up, and although occasionally inside of those you may hit a room filled with forbidden goods, feeling like a pleasant little speak-easy with vibrant (in comparison to the rest of the muted world) colors, it's all presented in a rather gloomy and gritty way that befits the theme of the movie. Costumes fair likewise, with city-dwellers often being all in black and white tuxedos, everyone looking as similar as possible, with the rebels wearing a wide breadth of clothing that instantly makes you realize that they are rebels.
One of the major selling points of this movie, outside of the thought-provoking plot and the principal ideas it lays down, is the action sets. The grace of which the Clerics formidable gun-kata is delivered is only enhanced by the exquisite style of shooting done in those scenes. There is no better example of this then when we first see it in legitimate combat use - a pitch black room highlighted only by muzzle flares bullet by deadly bullet. It takes on an artistic level that boarders on stop motion thanks to the strobe-light effect, and it really is the equivalent of what many would expect to see in a movie based on sword fights than a film with guns (although there are sword fights in this movie as well). The skill of the Clerics is never misrepresented in this movie, and those keen on details will notice that despite the action present in the finally of the movie, Preston's white outfit has nary a drop of blood upon it by the credit roll - a very minor detail that once picked up can really lead a person to appreciate just how good Preston is at what he does.
It really is a good movie in many a ways a movie can be - the plot is wonderful, the acting is incredibly (especially considering how much of the movie is based around a setting of people who can't feel), the action is intense, and the entire thing is shot and flows in a magnificent manner. It's no wonder why I'm confused as to why this isn't as well known a movie as something as off-the-path as C.H.U.D. I would recommend this to anyone, although it is rated R, mostly for violence, so keep that in mind if you have children running around. Outside of that, I see no reason why anyone should not watch this movie - it isn't exactly hard to find either! Go watch Mr. Bale in one of the first roles I saw him play that made him recognizable to me in roles he would play following.