Chances are, unless you are one of my male friends, you have never seen or heard of the movie, Equilibrium.
It came out in 2002 and starred Christian Bale before he became a household name. The story is that mankind had nearly wiped itself out with what we can assume was WW3. Some time after, the remainder of civilization came together and decided to resolve the root of humanity’s problems, emotion. So they formulated a serum that eradicated intense feelings of any kind. They sought to create a utopia in which violence and hatred would be replaced with peace and serenity. Unfortunately, many humans remained outside of this new civilization, in the borderlands of the great city.
Here is a quote from the movie’s intro that sums up nicely:
“In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man’s inhumanity to man – his ability to feel.”
The Grammaton Clerics seek out those who refuse to submit to the new order. They are highly lethal. Here is another quote to illustrate what I mean.
“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% increase to lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly.”
Christian Bale is the best of the best among Clerics. He even kills his own partner after discovering that he has stopped taking his medications and chosen to feel. But this quickly causes him to question his own humanity, and starts a chain of events that threatens to take down the entire new world order.
There are many reasons why I love this movie.
The Action: Ever heard of Gun Fu? Let me explain. When you fire a gun, you’re usually aiming it carefully in front of your face. I’m sure some of my friends could elaborate on that, but that’s the basic idea. Gun Fu, as I understand it, takes a gun and turns it into an object of highly stylized violence. To put it another way, it’s martial arts with guns. Not much of the careful aiming you find in reality. Equilibrium has a number of ridiculous shootouts that pit one man against dozens. It’s completely unrealistic, but that’s not the point. It’s awesome.
The Actor: My friends and I saw this movie before Christian Bale’s star caught on fire with movies like Batman Begins and The Prestige. For that reason, it feels like he belongs to us. I suppose it’s like when you love an unpopular band. They are small enough that they could just belong to you. Then they get insanely popular, but you still hold on to the part that was yours.
Also, Bale does the “no emotion” thing very well. His breakout performance in American Psycho
proved this as well.
The Emotion: Most young men love violence. And I bet most older men do as well, even though we understand that it is mostly an evil. This movie at once satisfies that underlying desire to kill and win (a line I have stolen from Hot Shots: Part Deux) with its relentless action while simultaneously forcing us to examine its darkside. When emotion rules us it ruins us like a spark that starts a forest fire. But without feelings, namely love (this is more than a feeling but humor me for now) , we are just a ticking clock waiting to expire. Equilibrium illustrates the internal eternal struggle that rages in every man.
Man’s Best Friend: Do you love dogs? Christian Bale does.
If you’re willing to overlook the fact that he kills all of those men for the sake of a dog, you’ll really appreciate such an anti- Old Yeller moment.
This movie has a special place in my film library. It’s not the best, but it doesn’t need to be. It just kicks ass.