Equilibrium (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byKurt Wimmer
Produced by
Screenplay byKurt Wimmer
Music byKlaus Badelt
CinematographyDion Beebe
Edited by
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • December 6, 2002 (2002-12-06)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$5.3 million[3]

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

The film follows John Preston (Bale), an enforcement officer in a future in which 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 makes him question his 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 by the regime he is helping to overthrow.


Libria, a totalitarian city-state, was established by the survivors of World War III. In Libria, all emotions and emotionally stimulating objects, blamed for causing the war, have been forbidden. Those in violation are labelled "sense offenders" and are put to death. The population suppresses emotions with a daily injection of a drug called Prozium II. Libria is governed by the Tetragrammaton Council, led by "Father", who communicates propaganda through giant video screens throughout the city. At the pinnacle of Librian law enforcement are the Grammaton Clerics, trained in the martial art of gun kata. Clerics frequently raid properties in the city and the "Nether" – regions outside the city limits – to search for and destroy illegal materials (art, literature and music) and execute the people hiding them. A resistance movement, known as the "Underground", emerges to topple Father and the Tetragrammaton Council.

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

In Libria, John Preston is a high-ranking Cleric whose wife, Viviana, was executed as a sense offender, leaving him the single parent of his daughter and son. Following a raid, Preston notices his partner, Errol Partridge, saving a book of poems by W. B. Yeats instead of turning it in for incineration. After tracing Partridge to the Nether and finding him reading the book, Partridge explains that he gladly pays the heavy price of feeling emotions; Preston executes him as he slowly reaches for his gun.

Preston accidentally breaks his daily vial of Prozium but is unable to replace it before going on the next raid. He begins to experience brief episodes of emotion that evoke memories, stir feelings and make him more aware of his surroundings; he intentionally skips more doses of Prozium and hides them behind the mirror in his bathroom.

Partridge is replaced with the career-conscious and ambitious Brandt, who expresses admiration for Preston's "uncompromising" work as a Cleric. On a raid, they arrest sense offender Mary O'Brien. To Brandt's surprise, Preston prevents him from executing O'Brien, saying she should be kept alive for interrogation. Brandt grows suspicious of Preston's hesitation. As Preston feels remorse for having killed Partridge, he develops an emotional relationship with O'Brien and uncovers clues that lead him to meet Jurgen, the leader of the Underground resistance. Jurgen is planning to disrupt Prozium production to spark a populace uprising, and convinces Preston that Father must be assassinated.

Vice-Counsel DuPont meets with Preston to reveal that there is a traitor in the upper ranks of the Clerics. Although DuPont appears to know it is Preston, he assigns him the task of uncovering and stopping the traitor. Relieved, Preston accepts and promises to make good on his vow to locate the Underground's leadership. O'Brien's execution is scheduled and Jurgen advises against interfering, as it could destroy plans for the revolution. Unable to bear letting her die, Preston tries to stop the execution, but fails. As he has an emotional breakdown in the street, Brandt arrests him and brings him before DuPont. Preston tricks DuPont into believing that Brandt is the 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, who stopped taking Prozium after his mother died, already has.

Jurgen has Preston stage the capture of the leaders of the Underground to gain the government's trust and get close enough to assassinate Father. Preston is granted an exclusive audience with Father only to discover that Brandt's arrest was faked as part of a ruse to expose Preston and the Underground. DuPont reveals that he is the real Father, having secretly replaced the original Father after his death, that he does not take Prozium, and can feel emotions. He taunts Preston, asking how it felt to betray the Underground. Enraged, Preston fights his way through an army of bodyguards to DuPont's office and kills Brandt in a katana battle. DuPont and Preston have a gun kata showdown; Preston wins and DuPont pleads for his life, asking, "Is it really worth the price?" Responding with Partridge's last words, "I pay it gladly", Preston kills DuPont. He destroys the command center that broadcasts Father propaganda, then watches with satisfaction as the revolution begins with the Underground's destruction of the Prozium manufacturing facilities.


  1. ^ a b Viviana Preston: Alexa Summer and Maria Pia Calzone portrayed the same character in the film, but appear in the credits separately as "Viviana Preston" and "Preston's wife" respectively.

Gun kata[edit]

Angus Macfadyen's character, Vice-Counsel DuPont, describes the fictional fighting style gun kata in the film:

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 percent. The difference of a 63 percent increased lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly.

Kata (型, かた) is a Japanese word for standard forms of movements and postures in karate, jujutsu, aikido, and many other traditional martial arts. The gun kata shown in Equilibrium is a hybrid of Wimmer's own style of gun kata (invented in his backyard)[4] and the martial arts style of the fight choreographer Jim Vickers, with elements of the Chinese Wing Chun martial art style.[citation needed]


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

Filming began on October 19, 2000 and ended on December 10, 2000

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 Wimmer, the fascist architecture was chosen "to make the individual feel small and insignificant so the government seems more powerful". The modern architecture of Berlin emphasizes the futuristic and stolid appearance of the city-state of Libria. Thick walls are represented by an abandoned East German military base, while the exterior of the city, where many of the surviving rebels reside, was filmed in decrepit neighborhoods of East Germany. In addition to the geographic location, a few European art directors also made substantial contributions to the production.[5]

Equilibrium's locations include:[5]

Although making a science fiction movie, Wimmer intentionally avoided using futuristic technology that could 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 explained. "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."[5]


Critical response[edit]

The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 40% of critics gave the film positive reviews and an average rating of 4.8/10, based on 90 reviews, with the site's consensus stating "Equilibrium is a reheated mishmash of other sci-fi movies."[7] Metacritic gave the film a score of 33 out of 100, based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[8]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times dismissed Equilibrium for having heavily borrowed from Fahrenheit 451, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, and other science fiction classics.[9]

Roger Ebert 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."[10]

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.[11] Responding to the critics' views, 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."[12]

Box office[edit]

The film had an estimated production budget of $20 million. International pre-release sales had already made a profit, so the studio reduced the film's promotion and advertising budget to avoid the risk of the film losing money; as a consequence, theatrical release was limited.[12]

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 on December 26, 2002; the film earned $4.1 million internationally, for a total of $5.3 million worldwide.[3]

Alternative English Titles[edit]

This movie has also been released with other English titles in some countries:[13]


In 2017, American Mythology Productions published a three-issue comic book series set in the world of Equilibrium. It was written by Pat Shand and drawn by Jason Craig and Eliseu Gouveia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "EQUILIBRIUM (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 25, 2002. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  2. ^ Equilibrium (budget), The Numbers. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Equilibrium (box-office performance)]". The Numbers. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  4. ^ "Equilibrium DVD Commentary: Kurt Wimmer: Chapter 7". Equilibriumfans.com. Retrieved March 29, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "Equilibrium Production Notes". compleatseanbean.com. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  6. ^ Equilibrium DVD Commentary: Wimmer & Foster: Chapter 2
  7. ^ "Equilibrium - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  8. ^ "Equilibrium (2002): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  9. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (December 6, 2002). "Equilibrium (2002) Film Review". The New York Times. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 6, 2002). "Equilibrium". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012.
  11. ^ "Dreamwatch Interview: Kurt Wimmer Achieving Equilibrium". Dreamwatch. Winter 2003.
  12. ^ a b Snider, John C. "Interview: Kurt Wimmer (Writer/Director, Equilibrium)". SciFiDimensions.com. Sci-Fi Dimensions. Archived from the original on June 21, 2003. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  13. ^ "Equilibrium (2002) Release Info". IMDb. Retrieved September 17, 2020.

External links[edit]