Move over The Matrix? Not quite, but really darn close if you ask me, and I’m one of the biggest Matrix fans you will ever find.

What movie could be so good that I would put it up in a league right next to the holy grail of science-fiction movies packed with a great story, above-average acting, amazing fight sequences, and a dim outlook on the future that propels your mind into thought? That movie is Equilibrium, and this movie takes the cake as the biggest surprise of 2002 and my pick for sleeper hit of the year.

Only opening in the top 20 markets this weekend, Equilibrium is the story of Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) who is a high level officer in a new world order task force in the futuristic society of Liberia where emotion has been outlawed and the human race is forced to take a drug called Prozium. The cleric are the elite and trained in a new martial art that analyzes the pattern of bullets when shot at a person and trains its personnel to move in such a way that they are never hit. This “Gun-kata” leads to a new, amazing, type of fighter after the first action sequence that has Preston kicks down a door and slides on it into a room with no lights. After a few seconds of wondering where he is the gun fight begins, if you can really call it a fight. This is also the time when the movie’s style comes into play as through the ensuing sequence only muzzle flashes expose the criminals as they are being pumped full of holes by Preston who, through a very tightly choreographed sequence, movies his hands and guns with such eloquence.

In the world without emotion these clerics and sweeper teams are given the task of locating “sense offenders” and contraband that consists of anything containing color, life, or culture, it has all been banned and the punishment for housing such materials is death.

When Preston misses a dosage of his medication he begins to feel, and see the world for what it is. Earlier he had arrested a sense offender, played by Emily Watson, whom he has become infatuated with. His spouse was executed three years prior for sense offense, a punishment that Preston stood on and watched with cold, dark eyes.

Preston will eventually regain all feeling and begins to second guess what he does, but after his new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs), who seems to want to make a heavy career move, becomes suspicious of his actions the twisting of the story begins up until the final battle between Preston and his boss where guns become part of martial arts and a new, fresh way of looking at a fight scene is developed and loved by the audience.

The strength of this movie is in the portrayal of Cleric John Preston by Christian Bale (American Psycho, Reign of Fire) who does a marvelous job in the roll. His cold, daunting stare is perfect for a role such as this one which combines elements from Minority Report‘s John Anderton and The Matrix‘s Neo.

The special effects for this low budget sci-fi fest are very well done and bring back images of The Fifth Element when seeing a sprawled-out city who’s towering skyscraper paint the picture of a horizon with massive buildings composed of little or no life. The absence of color is just another tool that adds to an already excellent style. It is somewhat sad to see movies like Die Another Day with huge budgets that can’t seem to get CG down, but a niche movie such as this one can pull off vast cityscapes and realistic zeppelins.

It seems unfair to compare this movie to The Matrix, even when it does possess an obvious homage to the movie in the final action sequence. The fighting style and amazingly fresh style keep this movie from drifting too far into the “tried and done” category. While many may never get the chance to see it on the big screen because of its limited release and particular niche, if you get the opportunity, seize it, because you won’t see a fresher surprise this year.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!