Equilibrium (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kurt Wimmer
Produced by Jan de Bont
Lucas Foster
Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Written by Kurt Wimmer
Starring Christian Bale
Emily Watson
Taye Diggs
Angus Macfadyen
Sean Bean
William Fichtner
Music by Klaus Badelt
Cinematography Dion Beebe
Edited by Tom Rolfe
William Yeh
Dimension Films
Blue Tulip Productions
Distributed by Dimension Films
Miramax Films
Release date(s)
  • December 6, 2002 (2002-12-06)
Running time 107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $5,359,645

Equilibrium is a 2002 science fiction film written and directed by Kurt Wimmer. It stars Christian Bale, Emily Watson and Taye Diggs.

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, in hopes of making amend of his past misdeeds and differences to the lives of the people around him.


Equilibrium is set in 2072 in a city-state known as Libria. After a third World War which killed most of the world's population, 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 to seek and destroy illegal materials – art, literature, and music – and execute their owners. Despite these efforts, a resistance movement, known as the "Underground", emerges with the goal of toppling Father and the Tetragrammaton Council.

The flag of Libria. The four Ts on the flag represent the Tetragrammaton Council

John Preston (Christian Bale) is a high-ranking Grammaton Cleric and a widower with two children, Robbie and Lisa (Matthew Harbour and Emily Siewert). Preston’s wife and mother of his children, Viviana (Alexa Summer and Maria Pia Calzone), was executed because she chose to stop taking Prozium, a crime known as "Sense Offense". Following a raid, Preston notices his partner, Errol Partridge (Sean Bean), saves a book of poems by Yeats from incineration. Suspicious, Preston discovers that Partridge never turned the book into the evidence archive. Preston then tracks down Partridge in the Nether region to discover him reading the book. Partridge looks up at Preston, and quotes Yeats, saying, "'I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.' I assume you dream, Preston." Partridge tells Preston that he has realized the error of his ways and the fallacy of the government they represent. He acknowledges that the consequences of feeling are a "heavy cost", but remarks, "I pay it gladly". Partridge reaches for his gun and Preston is forced to kill him.

Preston dreams occasionally about his wife and the day she was arrested. After accidentally breaking his daily vial of Prozium, Robbie enters and coldly reminds his father that he needs to go to Equilibrium, log the loss, and request a replacement. The building is temporarily closed due to terrorist activity, and Preston is unable to obtain another vial before going on the next raid. As a result, he begins to experience brief episodes of emotion and more vivid memories. He then deliberately skips subsequent doses of Prozium, hiding the vials behind the mirror in his bathroom.

Preston is assigned a new partner, the career-oriented Brandt (Taye Diggs), who praises Preston's "uncompromising" work as a Cleric. On their first raid together, they arrest Mary O'Brien (Emily Watson), a citizen identified as a Sense Offender. To Brandt's surprise, Preston prevents him from executing O'Brien on the spot, deciding to keep her alive for interrogation. Without Prozium, Preston continues to struggle with his emotions, especially when he feels remorse about his past. Brandt grows suspicious of Preston's hesitation to execute Sense Offenders and destroy contraband. Preston eventually uncovers clues that lead to a meeting with Jürgen (William Fichtner), the leader of the Underground resistance. Jürgen convinces Preston that Father must be assassinated. The other part of the plan is 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 has not been personally implicated, Preston cordially agrees and promises to locate the Underground's leadership. Meeting with Jürgen 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 Robbie already has. Robbie reveals his father that he, along with Lisa, stopped taking Prozium after their mother died, and they support their father in overthrowing the Tetragrammaton Council.

Seeking to carry out Jürgen’s plan, Preston is granted an exclusive audience with Father. He has to take a test first, in which it is revealed that Brandt was never arrested, but was actually part of a ruse to expose Preston. The real purpose of this meeting is to allow Preston to turn in the leaders of the Underground before being executed. DuPont is also shown to be the real Father, whom he secretly replaced following the original Father's death. It also becomes clear that DuPont and other Council members does not take Prozium and can feel emotions themselves, and thus the drug was only meant for controlling the city's populace. DuPont taunts him, asking Preston how it felt to betray the Underground.

Preston pulls out his hidden weapons, frees himself, and fights his way into DuPont's office, which is filled with illegal artwork and ornate furniture. After killing DuPont's bodyguards, Preston defeats Brandt in a katana battle and takes on DuPont in a final showdown. Preston defeats DuPont, but before being executed, DuPont asks for clemency, saying that he really represents life and feeling. Remembering all of the deaths caused by the Council and DuPont's sadism, Preston responds with Partridge's last words, "I pay it gladly", and kills DuPont. He then destroys the government's control systems that broadcast videos 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. The resistance leaders are saved following the attack. Preston watches with content high above from DuPont's office, gently rubbing a red ribbon given to him by O'Brien.


  1. ^ a b 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.

Gun Kata[edit]

Main article: Gun fu

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)[1] 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.[citation needed] 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?]


Olympic Stadium in Berlin, representing Librian government offices.
The Hall of Enforcement in Equilibrium, represented by the Bundestag (Berlin U-Bahn) subway station under the Reichstag building.

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.[2]

Equilibrium's locations include:[2]

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.”[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mostly negative 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."[4] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 33 out of 100, based on 22 reviews.[5] The New York Times dismissed Equilibrium for having heavily borrowed from Fahrenheit 451, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, and other science-fiction classics.[6] 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."[7]

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.[8] 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."[9]

Box office[edit]

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.[10]

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.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Equilibrium DVD Commentary: Kurt Wimmer: Chapter 7". Equilibriumfans.com. Retrieved 2009-03-29. 
  2. ^ a b c "Equilibrium Production Notes". compleatseanbean.com. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Equilibrium DVD Commentary: Wimmer & Foster: Chapter 2
  4. ^ "Equilibrium - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  5. ^ "Equilibrium (2002): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  6. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (6 December 2002). "Equilibrium (2002) Film Review". NY Times. Retrieved 19 September 2010. 
  7. ^ "Equilibrium". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  8. ^ "Dreamwatch Interview: Kurt Wimmer Achieving Equilibrium". Dreamwatch. Retrieved Winter 2003. 
  9. ^ "Interview: Kurt Wimmer". Sci-Fi Dimensions. Retrieved April 2003. 
  10. ^ Snider, John C. "Interview: Kurt Wimmer (Writer/Director, Equilibrium)". SciFiDimensions.com. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "Box Office Mojo - Equilibrium". Retrieved 19 September 2010. 

External links[edit]