Starring: Christopher Bale, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson and Sean Bean
Momentum Pictures
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

In a future society, where war has been avoided by the use of a feeling-repressant drug called Prozium, Neo ... I mean John Preston is a talented Grammaton Cleric (government agent) charged with the responsibility of seeking out illegal sense offenders and issuing immediate punishment. Death. After killing his own partner for reading poetry, he begins to question his own motives, Uncontrollable circumstances cause him to be late taking his dose of prozium, and once he begins to experience genuine feelings he finds there's no going back. But how can Preston survive among his own officers long enough to bring them and this totalitarian society down?...

In this modern age, there's no such thing as a totally original idea. Everything is at least partially based on a previous concept. Equilibrium is a film brought to us by the makers of Minority Report and Speed. The Minority Report connection is plain to see. There is a very Phillip K. Dick feel to this entire film, evident in the serious near-future society which is somehow twisted. This movie has also been compared much with The Matrix. The long coats, humourless faces, and excessive use of firearms and close contact fighting further confirm the fact. There is even an element of the early George Lucas book-turned-film, THX 1138, in which people are kept subdued by drugs, and physical sex and standard procreation is prohibited by law. However, there is another source that Equilibrium borrows from so heavily that I'm truly astonished no one appears to have noticed it before.

Master storyteller Ray Bradbury wrote a novel in the fifties called Fahrenheit 451 (which is the temperature at which paper burns). This was immortalised in a marvellous film in the seventies by Francais Trauffant. The plot was that books and literature of any kind is outlawed by government. People are told what to think and are obliged to watch a set minimum amount of hours TV every day (that's law now, isn't it?). Citizens report anyone suspected of having books, and the fire brigade arrives to summarily burn them. One such fireman keeps a book out of curiosity, only to get bitten by the literary bug. He finds himself in the same situation as John Preston, except his contact with the underground isn't so cut and dried. These people recite to each other individual classics by word of mouth, so they can be passed on and not lost forever to mankind.

Okay, so there's a lot of similarities here, but Equilibrium manages to spark its own slant of originality. There's much to appreciate in what first appears to be a blatant rip-off. Firstly, everybody wears dull colours and lives in a monochrome environment; this is a good way of displaying the general lack of emotional senses. Hidden rooms with concealed artefacts then suddenly seem blindingly bright with promise. The feelings, when displayed to us through John Preston, are subtle and so all the more potent. A sunrise, the touch of human skin, the petting of a puppy dog; all come across powerfully. For me, this film is more about the regaining of the human soul, than it ever is about the fighting. Of course, the fighting helps (there's even a shoot-em-up scene copied straight from The Matrix). It's very well choreographed, and there is even a training explanation why one skilled man can mow down hoards of machine-gun-wielding guards! I particularly liked the hand-to-hand fighting with guns at the conclusion.

It's almost ironic that this is no different to any other so-called ideal society, whose utopia must be maintained with an iron fist. The realism juxtaposes with the exaggerated fight scenes, producing a film well worth a viewing.

As far as the extras go, short seems to be the order of the day. Aside from a director's commentary and a director & producer commentary, there is only a short trailer and a series of very brief TV spots. If the behind-the-scenes feature had been at least 30 minutes duration I might have considered giving this release an extra point, but at only four minutes it hardly warrants that description at all. This is a "I did this film because it's ... er ...very good" series of quotes from the actors. It was hardly worth the effort, and a complete waste of film. My granny could have done better.

Sorry Momentum Pictures, but if you're going to add extras, do it like you mean it. Where are all the outakes, the cut or extended scenes, the biogs, the picture galleries, the in-depth interviews and demonstrations from the artistes behind the scenes? It's a good job the film is so good.

Ty Power

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