Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kurt Wimmer|
|Produced by||Jan de Bont
|Written by||Kurt Wimmer|
|Music by||Klaus Badelt|
|Edited by||Tom Rolfe
Blue Tulip Productions
|Distributed by||Dimension Films
|Running time||107 minutes|
The film follows John Preston (Bale), an enforcement officer in a future dystopia where both feelings and artistic expression are outlawed and citizens take daily injections of drugs to suppress their emotions. After accidentally missing a dose, Preston begins to experience emotions which make him question his own morality and moderate his actions, while attempting to remain undetected by the suspicious society in which he lives. Ultimately, he aids a resistance movement using advanced martial arts, which he was taught serving the very regime he is helping to overthrow.
Equilibrium is set in 2072 in a country known as Libria. After a third World War, a totalitarian state emerged whose ideology determined human emotion to be the root cause of conflict. All emotionally-stimulating material is banned and "Sense Offenders" are apprehended and consigned to "combustion" (death by incineration). All citizens are required to take daily injections of Prozium to suppress emotion and encourage obedience.
Libria is governed by the Tetragrammaton Council led by a figurehead known as "Father" (Sean Pertwee). Father never interacts with anyone directly, but is seen on giant video screens throughout the city. The Tetragrammaton Council uses the police to maintain conformity. At the pinnacle of Librian law enforcement are the Grammaton Clerics, who are trained in the martial art of gun kata. The Clerics frequently raid the "Nether" region outside the city where they search for and destroy illegal materials – art, literature, and music – and execute the people hiding them. Despite their ongoing efforts, a resistance movement, known as the "Underground", emerges with the goal of toppling Father and the Tetragrammaton Council.
John Preston (Christian Bale) is a high-ranking Grammaton Cleric and a widower with two children whose wife, Viviana (Alexa Summer), was executed for a crime known as "Sense Offense" – when a citizen ceases to take their Prozium regimen. Following a raid, Preston notices his partner, Errol Partridge (Sean Bean), saving a book of poems by Yeats from incineration. Suspicious, Preston discovers that the book was never turned into an evidence archive like Partridge promised. Preston tracks down Partridge who was hiding in the Nether region reading the book. He continues to read as Preston walks up to him. He looks up at Preston, and quotes Yeats, saying, "'I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread carefully because you tread upon my dreams.' I assume you dream, Preston." Partridge confesses to Preston that he now realizes the error of his ways and the government he represents. He acknowledges that the consequences of feeling are a "heavy cost", but remarks, "I pay it gladly" as he slowly reaches for his gun. Preston warns him not to but is forced to execute him.
Preston dreams occasionally about his wife and the day she was arrested. After accidentally breaking his daily vial of Prozium, his son (Matthew Harbour) enters and coldly reminds him that he needs to go to Equilibrium, log the loss, and request a replacement. The building is temporarily closed due to terrorist activity, so he is unable to obtain another vial before going on the next raid. As a result, he begins to experience brief episodes of emotion evoking more memories and making him more aware of his surroundings. He intentionally skips more doses of Prozium and hides them behind the mirror in his bathroom.
Preston's partner is replaced with career-conscious Brandt (Taye Diggs), who reveals his admiration for Preston's "uncompromising" work as a Cleric. On their first raid together, they arrest Mary O'Brien (Emily Watson), a citizen within the city identified as a Sense Offender. To Brandt's surprise, Preston prevents him from executing O'Brien on the spot choosing instead to keep her alive for interrogation. Without Prozium, Preston continues to struggle with his emotions and has a hard time hiding them from others. Brandt grows suspicious of Preston's hesitation to execute Sense Offenders and destroy contraband. Preston eventually uncovers clues that leads to a meeting with Jurgen (William Fichtner), the leader of the Underground resistance. Jurgen convinces him that assassinating Father must happen to help their movement succeed. They plan to disrupt Prozium production which will then lead to an uprising by the populace.
Preston is apprehended by police and brought before Vice-Counsel DuPont (Angus Macfadyen), who reveals there is a traitor in the upper ranks of the Clerics. DuPont appears to be onto Preston, but then tells him that the traitor is the number one threat to society and needs to be stopped. Somewhat relieved to learn he hasn't been implicated, Preston cordially agrees and promises to locate the Underground's leadership. Meeting with Jurgen again, Preston is advised to allow O'Brien's execution to take place in order to avoid sabotaging plans for the revolution. He is unable to watch her execution and unsuccessfully rushes to stop it. Brandt catches Preston having an emotional breakdown in the streets, arrests him, and brings him before the Vice-Counsel. DuPont is tricked by Preston into believing that Brandt is the real traitor. Following Brandt's arrest, Preston is informed that a search of his home will take place as a formality. He rushes home to destroy the hidden vials only to find his son already has. His son tells him that he stopped taking Prozium after his mother died.
Carrying out Jurgen's plan to have the leaders of the Underground captured, Preston is granted exclusive audience with Father. He has to take a test first, in which it is revealed that Brandt was not truly arrested. He was part of a ruse to expose Preston allowing him to turn in the leaders of the Underground before being executed. DuPont is also exposed to be the real Father, whom he secretly replaced following the original Father's death. It also becomes clear that DuPont does not take Prozium and can feel emotions. DuPont taunts him, asking Preston how it felt to betray the Underground. Enraged, Preston fights his way into DuPont's office, which is filled with illegal artwork and ornate furniture. After killing all of DuPont's bodyguards, he defeats Brandt in a katana battle, which leads to a final gun kata showdown with DuPont. Preston defeats DuPont, but before being executed, DuPont tries to convince Preston to spare him on the account he represents life and feeling. He asks Preston, "Is it really worth the price?" Preston responds with Partridge's last words, "I pay it gladly", and destroys the government's control systems that broadcast video of Father. The Underground carries out the destruction of Prozium manufacturing and storage facilities, while scores of rebels successfully attack key points throughout the city. Preston watches with content high above from DuPont's office, gently rubbing a red ribbon that O'Brien gave him.
- Christian Bale as John Preston
- Emily Watson as Mary O'Brien
- Taye Diggs as Andrew Brandt
- Angus Macfadyen as Vice-Counsel DuPont
- Sean Bean as Errol Partridge
- William Fichtner as Jurgen
- Matthew Harbour as Robbie Preston
- Sean Pertwee as Father
- David Hemmings as Proctor
- Emily Siewert as Lisa Preston
- Alexa Summer as Viviana Preston[VP 1]
- Maria Pia Calzone as Preston's wife[VP 1]
- Dominic Purcell as Seamus
- Brian Conley as Reading room overseer
- Kurt Wimmer as Rebel victim
- Viviana Preston: Alexa Summer and Maria Pia Calzone both portrayed the same character in the film, but in the credits appear separately as "Viviana Preston" and "Preston's wife" respectively.
Vice councillor DuPont (Angus Macfadyen) in Equilibrium describes the concept thus:
- "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% increased lethal proficiency makes the master of the Gun Katas an adversary not to be taken lightly."
Gun Kata is a fictional gun-wielding martial art discipline. It is based on the premise that, given the positions of the participants in a gun battle, all trajectories of fire are statistically predictable. By memorizing the positions, one can fire at the most likely location of an enemy without aiming at him in the traditional sense. By the same token, the trajectories of incoming fire are also statistically predictable, so by assuming the appropriate stance, one can keep clear of the most likely path of enemy bullets.
The Gun Kata shown in Equilibrium is a hybrid mix of Kurt Wimmer's own style of Gun Kata (invented in his backyard) and the martial arts style of the fight choreographer Jim Vickers, with elements of the Chinese martial art style Wing Chun. They disagreed on the appropriate form of Gun Kata, with Kurt Wimmer advocating a smoother, flowing style and the choreographer supporting a more rigid style. Much of the Gun Kata seen in the film is based on the choreographer's style. Kurt Wimmer's Gun Kata is dispersed sparsely throughout the movie, most notably in the introductory scene with the silhouetted man, played by Wimmer himself, practicing with dual pistols.[original research?]
Most of the filming used locations in Berlin, due to its unique mixture of fascist and modern architecture. According to the visual effects supervisor Tim McGovern who worked alongside Kurt Wimmer, the fascist architecture was chosen "to make the individual feel small and insignificant so the government seems more powerful." In addition, the modern architecture that is also found in Berlin emphasizes the futuristic and stolid appearance of the city state of Libria. Moreover, while the city state of Libria has thick walls represented by an abandoned fortress-like East German military base, the exterior of the city is filmed in the decrepit neighborhoods of East Germany, where many of the surviving rebels reside. In addition to the geographic location, a few European art directors also made substantial contributions to the production.
Equilibrium's locations include:
- Olympic Stadium (Berlin), built for the 1936 Summer Olympics.
- Deutschlandhalle, also built for the 1936 Summer Olympics.
- Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
- Berlin Tempelhof Airport, which was built before the Nazi era, but completed during and carries lots of the Nazi trademark architecture of World War II.
- Bundestag (Berlin U-Bahn) station, a modern unopened subway station near the new Reichstag Building, plus some long tunnels of the Berlin U-Bahn.[clarification needed]
- Decrepit East German neighborhoods, as well as an abandoned massive East German military base.[which?]
- The EUR, Rome fascist district, built by Mussolini.
Although making a science-fiction movie, Wimmer intentionally avoided using futuristic technology that can become obsolete, and he also decided to set his story in an indeterminate future. “I wanted to create more of an alternate reality than get caught up in the gadgetry of science fiction,” he explains. “In fact, there’s no technology in Equilibrium that doesn’t already exist. It’s more like a parallel universe, the perfect setting for a parable.”
The film received mixed reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 37% of critics gave the film positive reviews and an average rating of 4.8/10, based on 83 reviews, with the consensus being "Equilibrium is a reheated mishmash of other sci-fi movies." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 33 out of 100, based on 22 reviews. The New York Times dismissed Equilibrium for having heavily borrowed from Fahrenheit 451, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, and other science-fiction classics. Roger Ebert, however, awarded the film 3 stars out of 4, noting that "Equilibrium would be a mindless action picture, except that it has a mind. It doesn't do a lot of deep thinking, but unlike many futuristic combos of sf and f/x, it does make a statement."
Wimmer said in a Dreamwatch magazine interview that "the paying customers seemed to get it," and said the critics "didn't seem to see that the film had a different message than" Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. Wimmer later said, "Why would I make a movie for someone I wouldn't want to hang out with? Have you ever met a critic who you wanted to party with? I haven't."
The film had an estimated production budget of $20 million. Given international pre-release sales had already made a profit, the studio allocated a reduced promotion and advertising budget to avoid the risk of the film becoming a loss-maker; as a consequence, theatrical release was limited.
The film was shown in only 301 theaters at its widest release in the United States, earning $541,512 in its opening week, and only $1.2 million when it closed at December 26, 2002; the film earned $4.1 million internationally, for a total of $5.3 million worldwide.
- "Equilibrium DVD Commentary: Kurt Wimmer: Chapter 7". Equilibriumfans.com. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
- "Equilibrium Production Notes". compleatseanbean.com. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
- Equilibrium DVD Commentary: Wimmer & Foster: Chapter 2
- "Equilibrium - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- "Equilibrium (2002): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- Mitchell, Elvis (6 December 2002). "Equilibrium (2002) Film Review". NY Times. Retrieved 19 September 2010.
- "Equilibrium". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Dreamwatch Interview: Kurt Wimmer Achieving Equilibrium". Dreamwatch. Retrieved Winter 2003.
- "Interview: Kurt Wimmer". Sci-Fi Dimensions. Retrieved April 2003.
- Snider, John C. "Interview: Kurt Wimmer (Writer/Director, Equilibrium)". SciFiDimensions.com. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
- "Box Office Mojo - Equilibrium". Retrieved 19 September 2010.
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- Equilibrium at the Internet Movie Database
- Equilibrium at AllMovie
- Equilibrium at Rotten Tomatoes
- Equilibrium at Metacritic
- Equilibrium at Box Office Mojo