Monday 30 May 2011

What Do You Mean You've Never Seen...Equilibrium

2002's Equilibrium is a science fiction action movie set in a dystopian future. Mankind has identified emotion and feeling as the source of all true aggression, and has developed a drug named Prozium to suppress emotion. The result is a society free of war, at the expense of the ability to feel anything. However, there are people who fight the new war-free system, and as a result agents known as Grammaton Clerics are dispatched to combat them. Clerics are cold, calculating killing machines trained in a special discipline of gunfighting which makes them nigh-on unstoppable. However, when John Preston (Christian Bale, a guy you might have heard of) misses a dose of his Prozium, he begins to find his priorities shifting, and begins to question where, in fact, his allegiances lie.

A sad fact that Brad and myself realised the other day is that a lot of the people studying things like Film and Media nowadays are unlikely to have seen films older than five years. For them, Inception represents what The Matrix meant to the older E14ies growing up. However, as much as I enjoy the more contemporary films, my heart will always belong to the movies that shaped my adolescence, and one that gets overlooked often amongst that list is Equilibrium. The movie contains a "who's who" of awesome acting talent, with Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Sean Pertwee and even Brian Conley all making an appearance in this movie. Sure, the movie subscribes to Bean's Law (in that Sean Bean won't be a fixture of a high percentage of his movies for whatever reason), but for the period he appears he's as awesome as ever, and sets the movie in motion.

One of the great things about the movie is simply how clinically it's done. The gun training is explained early on as statistically calculated, indicating that the successful knowledge of the training allows a Cleric to avoid the most likely return fire. All the way through, the movie deals with clinical natures and conformity in a way that makes you identify with Bale as his transformation continues through the film. The transformation, too, is handled really well, with initially very subtle gestures like Preston beginning to dream, but before long Preston is having to deal with his overwhelming newly-discovered emotion while at the same time present the same cold and calculating front of obedience and conformity, sneaking off to listen to Beethoven's 9th Symphony in a hidey-hole and hiding Prozium behind his bathroom mirror.

Particularly of note is that Preston's newly-appointed apprentice (played excellently by Taye Diggs) always seems to catch him in some sort of compromising position, which can be as straightforward as moving his desk in order to "optimise" on the face of things while in reality representing his attempt at non-comformity. Diggs plays an excellent lackey to both Bale and the system, intelligent while at the same time displaying the same level of coldness that Bale starts the film with. When Bale finally begins to fight the system, it's done with more subtle tones, preferring to dispatch a small squad secretly rather than go after the system in one massive coup attempt.

As a more obscure positive point, those who have become burned out on the more angry Christian Bale (and in my opinion, have wrongly pigeon-holed him as always using "the Batman voice" as opposed to simply "his angry voice") will find a completely different side to Bale in this movie. For a good portion, he is either cold and calculating or pretending to be so, and gradually becomes more angry (though not quite to Batman Begins levels) and then runs the entire scope of human emotions, seemingly at a very quickened pace.

The story, too, is really well done. With Bale trying to find out as much as he can about the underground Resistance to human emotion, he is under the guise of a Cleric trying to destroy the Resistance from within. All the while, the strength of the plot is such that Preston has to even hide his new emotions from his own children, who are still under the Prozium dosage. His son, in particular, is being groomed for the Cleric program and comes off as suspicious of his father at times (and at times, a bit of a douchebag, such is the nature of an emotionless freak).

On the face of it, Equilibrium could look from the poster like a rip-off of The Matrix (and in fact, a Google search doing research for this post showed me a user of the Internet who felt exactly like this and even went as far as a side-by-side comparison of the two movies' posters). However, I hope that people who initially wrote it off have gone on to watch the movie, because those who do will not be disappointed. Though there are elements of influence which can be plainly seen in the presentation (particularly the gunfights), the movie also would interest fans of 1984, Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and basically any dystopian fiction. Equilibrium possesses style and substance in absolute bucketloads, and is well worth checking out.

As if all that wasn't enough, swords FTW.


Cross of Iron is the only war film directed by master filmmaker Sam Peckinpah. With the same tenacity and style he brought to such classics as The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs and The Getaway, Peckinpah delivers a riveting and violent tale of men on the front lines of battle.

Set in 1943, this explosive epic centers on Corporal Steiner (James Coburn), an accomplished but war-weary combat veteran leading a group of German soldiers on the Russian front. Steiner´s authority comes under attack when Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell) takes over the command of his troops.

A Prussian aristocrat, Stransky has one goal in mind: to win the coveted Iron Cross, Germany´s highest medal, at any cost. The two military aces soon face off in an intense and deadly battle of wills. Highlighted by Peckinpah´s trademark balletic violence, ultra-realistic battle scenes and a top cast that also includes David Warner and James Mason.

Thanks to our friends at Optimum Home Entertainment, we've got three copies of Cross of Iron on Blu-ray to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name to before midday on Monday 6th June, making sure to put "Cross of Iron" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Cross of Iron" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Cross of Iron is available from Monday 6th June.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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