While Kurt Wimmer's 'Equilibrium' is a fast-paced science-fiction thriller with some extraordinary action set-pieces, it is also a subtle meditation on the relationship between passion, violence and aesthetics, lent great depth by its elaborate allusions to other books and films with a similar dystopian vision. As in 'Fahrenheit 451', Preston is a state book-burner who goes over to the other side. As in '1984', he lives in a world where the aphorisms of a Big Brother figure are constantly broadcast everywhere, and where 'sense crimes' are outlawed. As in 'Dead or Alive: Final', he is a policeman in a state where all citizens are forced to take drugs, and rebels are eradicated. As in 'The Matrix', his quasi-religious martial skills enable him to dodge bullets and take out whole armies. As in 'A Clockwork Orange', he discovers that the medical suppression of his base impulses has also prevented him from appreciating Beethoven's Ninth. And, finally, as in 'Fight Club', the full force of destructive urges being unleashed on a city is shown in an astonishingly ambivalent, highly aestheticised manner.
Christian Bale brings from 'American Psycho' a poker face perfectly suited to the role of Preston. His cold, inscrutable features bring real tension to the film, making it unclear whether he is actually devoid of emotions, or is merely concealing them. The same can be said of Taye Diggs as Preston's ambitious colleague Brandt, Angus MacFayden as his controller DuPont, and Matthew Harbour as Preston's son, Robbie, who is a chip off the old ice-block. Emily Watson, on the other hand, brings a glowing warmth to her role as the sense criminal and unconventional love interest Mary.
Wimmer's ability to write intelligent science-fiction could already be seen in his earlier film 'Sphere', but in 'Equilibrium' it is more fully developed. Indeed the effective blend here of thoughtfulness and entertainment is reminiscent of last year's excellent 'Minority Report'; and while 'Equilibrium' may be less polished around the edges than Spielberg's film, it has a denouement which is far bolder and more provocative.