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'A small price to pay'

A DVD review of Equilibrium One disc DVD

Ever been sat in front of the television, or indeed, stood at the local cinema/video store/whatever and just wanted violence? You know what I mean. Not mad hacky texas chainsaw violence, I mean The Matrix (the original) when it first come out, or Die Hard when it wasn't shown on a certain TV station every week. Just some well thoughout, good scripted, gun fighting and some kung fu on the side.

It's the same feeling I got watching Kill Bill Volume One first time round. The Bride (Uma Therman) walks into the house of Blue Leaves. The Crazy 88 (a group of 88 men in masks, suits, and with various stabby and slashy weaponry) enter and surround her. Then the carnage began and in the middle of a theatre, I can remember cackling maniacally. It was just what the doctor ordered.

I had that feeling about a week ago. For some reason I wanted to see the hero run around with a gun and shoot some bad guys (or stick 'em with swords). So I trundled over to my DVD collection and spied a film I hadnt watched in a while, and one that didn't do fantastically well. The film - Equilbrium.

The Sunday Mirror described the film as Nineteen Eighty-Four meets The Matrix. Spot on I'd say. Anyone who's read Nineteen Eighty-Four will immediately spot the similarities just by reading this article, but then again does it really matter? I'm totally against rip offs, especially in cinema, but I'm happy with equilbrium.

The DVD Box

The box looks fairly standard. The protagonist on the front sporting his two guns, with the bad guy in the background similarly armed. Inside is a nice little booklet giving a plot over-view and containing many nice pictures. In doing this some small points that aren't mentioned often are summarised for ease.

Overall: Nice stuff, but nothing special. 7.

The Film

There's a wonderful little intro to the film that tells you how the world got to the point it's at now. Basically, there's a third world war. Realising that mankind couldn't survive a fourth, the ruling body (known as Father) gets rid of emotion using a drug called Prozium for their new city state of Libria. That's all emotion from the good emotions like love, happiness, joy etc to the bad emotions of hate, rage and anger. The loss of the good emotions is described as 'a small
price to pay'. Art, literature, music, anything that can inspire emotion is burnt and destroyed. However, there are still wandering groups who try to preserve this old way of life, inside and outside Libria. To combat the unlawful 'sense offenders', who form these wandering groups, a new arm of the law is created. These are the Grammaton Clerics.

Now this is what you watch the film for. Okay the story is great and the sets are beautifully built using both studio and CGI work, but it's the Grammaton Cleric that makes the film. These are men and women, trained from a very early age to not only spot sense offenders, but to hunt them down. They learn a series of techniques call the gun kata's. This way of fighting (obviously created by Father) has calculated every possible position of an attacker in relation to the Cleric at any given time as well as the most probable target of trajectory. I'm buggered if I know what that full means, but the fact that the kill ratio is up to 160% (yes I was just as confused) means for some serious business.

So enters our protagonist, John Preston, played by the magnificently dark Christian Bale. Flanked by his partner, Partridge, played by Sean Bean. Now both of these actors have the ability to create a form of inner emotion. There's a tamed power that just eminates from the two of them as they stand ready to enter a room full of sense offenders who are armed to the teeth. It's at this point that we see what this gun kata is and what the Cleric is capable of.

The door is breeched and Preston slides in on the door1. Preston is silhouetted for a brief second then the room is plunged into darkness. There's a few brief whispers, before Preston explodes into life. The only light comes from his gun muzzles as they fly around him. This is just a teaser though...

Time goes on, and Preston realises that Partridge is a sense offender. He promptly tracks him down and shoots him2. This is a tragic waste. Sean Bean is just brilliant in the brief scene he's in, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

So Preston promptly gets a new partner. Cue Taye Diggs as Brandt. Why oh why is he in this film? The emotionless society of Libria that both Sean Bean and Christian Bale beautifully crafted in the first few minutes is torn to shreds through the film as Brandt smiles. It's a little point, but it's wrong. Preston should have shot him straight away.

Anyway. Preston wakes up the next morning and accidentally drops his dose of Prozium. Now there are creepy kids in cinema, but this one wins hands down. As soon as Preston realises that he's dropped the dose, his son (Matthew Harbour) demands to know what he's doing. Brilliantly executed by such a young actor and this happens on more then one occasion through the film.

So Preston is picked up by Brandt (who happily smiles, not realising it's suppose to be a film without emotion damn him). The two go to investigate a woman, by the name of Sarah. When she pulls a gun out, Brandt nearly kills her and, had it not been for Preston's quick reflexes, she would certainly have been dead.

What occurs next is a series of events that I find hard to recount in words. Interrogations between the woman and Preston result in Preston feeling for Sarah. This is heightend and emphasised when he discovers that she was Patridge's lover. His own humanity surges through the turmoil of a controlled life. It's brilliant to watch Christian Bale play this character, and I can't think of any other actor who could truly do it. Going from a rigid, dour sequence slaughtering guards etc, to the emotional sequence where he enters the room full of various bits and bobs3 and breaks down into tears as a stirring piece of music rises up.

With this progression comes a change in pace. Father tasks Preston to find the resistance (a group of sense offenders working against the system). Preston throws himself into this and when he makes contact with the leaders of the resistance they tell Preston that they have been watching him for some time. They test him with a lie detector, using Sarah's name to see if he'll react. This works a treat and the
lie detector goes haywire. In a quick sequence, the underground reveal to Preston that they need him for a daring plot to bring down Father. By handing the leaders over, Preston will be rewarded. He agrees, and the underground leader asks him not to see Sarah, because it will make it hard to do what he has to do. Unfortunately, this happens on the same day as she is due to be executed, and Preston rushes to see her. He finds her in the blast furnace, and watches as it is turned on, killing her instantly. He goes up to the streets and breaks down into tears where Brandt annoyingly appears and quickly arrests him. He's presented to the council as a sense offender, but Preston quickly turns this round (based on an early sequence which confused me to hell) and Brandt is quickly hauled away. The underground instigate their plan and, for all his work, Preston requests an audience with Father which he is reluctantly granted.

What follows is just poetry in motion. Preston enters and is told that he will be tested as, of course, the safety of Father is of paramount importance. He is casually asked for his weapon (a ceremonial sword) which he quite understandingly hands over. He's wired up to a lie detector and is asked the simple question:
'What is the best way to get a weapon off a Grammaton Cleric?'

It's quite spine tingling, especially when the numerous guards around the room point their rifles. It's like the entire plot has resulted in absolutely nothing. Then Taye Diggs appears:
'You ask him for it.'

Now I admit he's not a good actor and he's probably not suited to this kind of film, but that line is delivered spot on. He promptly exits to a backdoor.

Father is revealed as a member of the council (played by Angus MacFadyen) that's been directing Preston, and that the real Father died many years ago. With the lie detector needle going haywire, it suddenly
flatlines, and Preston whips out two pistols killing the few guards in the room. He proceeds into a second room where the film has a very matrix moment (I couldn't help but remember the lobby sequence). From behind pillars guards attack Preston, which he single handedly mows through in true Grammaton Cleric fashion. After a lovely gun battle he enters the chamber of Father where the councillor is sat, with Brandt stood behind. Several Grammaton Clerics appear armed with Katana's, and a quick and violent fight ensues, leaving the Clerics scattered in various bits across Fathers' office.

Then the moment I just love. Brandt steps forward with a Katana. He tells Preston not to damage his suit, because he intends wearing it for a long time to come.

*SLASH SLASH SLASH* Brandts guns slide off, followed by his face. It is literally that quick4. Then Angus MacFadyen stands. Now he's not the most athletic of people, compared to Preston he is slightly on the chubby side. But what follows is a gun fight that is easily winner of best gunfight sequence ever. Close quarter dueling.
Each has a single pistol, which come within around a foot of each others face, as they desperately counter and let loose rounds to try and beat there opponent.

Who wins I'll leave to you. It is truly memorable though.

Overall: The film is just poetry. Stunning settings, thrilling moments, and gun fights that bring a tear to eye. There's even a romance thrown in for good measure (without a happy ending I add). Beautiful. You must watch this film -



What I found to be most innovative is the fact that the extras are split into two separate sections. The question appears 'are you ready to infiltrate the underground?'. By answering either Yes or No you get two separate menus.

The Yes Menu

This contains the featurettes and trailers for equilibrium in the UK. I'd advise you to ignore these (they're pretty pointless) and skip straight to the 'Finding Equilbrium' featurette. Well worth a look because it goes behind the various characters. Christian Bale isn't just an emotionless robot and has a totally different accent. The guy who plays Father (or rather, the real father) was revealled as Angus
MacFadyen much to my delight because it annoyed me for days, until I realised that he was Robert the Bruce in Braveheart.

The No Menu

This is the menu that I love most. It comes in two flavours.

  1. Gun kata - when I first saw this feature I was thrilled to bits. The gun kata brough to life in a series of images, straight from the film. Except for the fact there's only about six poses, which is a shame because the idea was brillant.
  2. Jump to fight- Here she is. What every film should have. No messing about fast forwarding or skipping chapters, just see which beauty you want, and enjoy the mayhem. It's a great thing to watch in slow motion too, and I'd advise everyone with the option to look at the last fight in slow motion, just so you see what actually goes on.

Overall: The extras are desperately trying to be great. There's so much potential it's untrue and it's a shame that a lot doesn't get used. It would have been interesting to discover more about the evolution of the Cleric in the design process for instance.


Total summary

Okay most people who've read something like Nineteen Eighty-Four, or are hardcore Matrix fans, will watch this and be non too impressed. I found it a refreshing alternative to The Matrix and similar films that tried to do similar things and relied on bullet-time. The extras are a bit weedy and a little more thought would have been greatly appreciated. But at just under average price (I think I nabbed it for around 12 quid) it's a bargain.



So after a weeks absence, what have I got planned? Well it's either going to be Blade or Peter Kay - or I might do Coldplay Live in Sydney.

Any requests?

Note: In my slow run up to the four disc, The Lord Of The
Rings: The Return Of The King
review, I should start from the beginning. This might mean I'll be absent from the issues from time to time as I trawl through all four discs of the Fellowship.

AD's DVD Archive

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06.05.04 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1He jumps onto the door and then rides it surf board style into the room.2Another one for Seans list of 'Films where I have died at the beginning, or not lived till the end.3Including, amongst other things, my CD player.4The only way you can imagine how happy I was when I first saw that is to imagine me jumping up and down shouting 'Ha ha ha you nonce!'

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