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In the nation of Libria, there is always peace among men. The rules of the Librian system are simple. If you are happy, you will be arrested. If you cry, the law will hunt you down. If you read a contraband book or so much as look at a smuggled painting, you've committed a crime. To keep the peace, citizens must take their daily doses Prozium, a powerful designer drug that stops feelings dead and keeps everyone on an even keel. Refuse to take the drug and special police will find you. Up until now, top-ranking government official John Preston has believed in this system, has upheld the system as a highly-trained "Cleric" who seeks out and destroys those who don't take their pills. But then he skips his own dose of Prozium--and discovers an incredible new world of sensation that gives him the passion to fight for freedom.
For more about Equilibrium and the Equilibrium Blu-ray release, see Equilibrium Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Angus MacFadyen, Sean Bean, Matthew Harbour
Director: Kurt Wimmer
» See full cast & crew
Equilibrium Blu-ray Review
A modern Sci-Fi masterpiece earns a subpar Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 18, 2011
You tread on my dreams.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." Such is the world of Equilibrium. Writer/Director Kurt Wimmer's (Ultraviolet) physical vision of a future world where the essence of humanity has been sacrificed for the sake of the physical welfare of humanity is a little stale -- and necessarily so -- but in a film like this, it's the theme rather than the look that counts. Equilibrium is a modern masterpiece that examines the folly of overzealous governmental/tyrannical control over a population, in this case taken to the extreme: removing the very essence of mankind for the sake of saving mankind in the physical sense, but at the price of his emotional and spiritual welfare. Indeed, in the world of Equilibrium it's the very things that make men free -- individuality, choice, association, emotion, ownership, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- that have been outlawed for the "betterment" of man, and while this new, sterile, inconsequential way of life may lead to physical safety, it's far more damaging to man than bullets or bombs. This is a no-nonsense look at the dangers of forsaking liberty for security as told in the shape of an Action/Science Fiction film. Equilibrium pulls no punches and leaves its message front-and-center in every frame, though never to the detriment of the whole.
In the not-too-distant future, war has ravaged the planet at the price of countless lives. Mankind cannot survive a fourth World War. To avoid further conflict, a totalitarian regime has risen to power and outlawed any and all things -- both physical objects and beliefs alike -- that could influence human emotion, potentially lead to disagreement, and shatter the forced state of harmony that exists following the war. Not only is art, music, poetry, and even fancy mirror borders outlawed, but man is controlled through the injection of a suppressive drug meant to ensure submission to the new way of life. The government routinely raids known strongholds of resistance where emotions remain; the drugs unused; and art, poetry, and music are present and provide emotional stimuli. Armed soldiers patrol the streets, but highly-skilled killers known as "Clerics" work hand-in-hand with the police force to deter and defeat the enemy of emotion and the rebels who harbor it. Amongst the Clerics is John Preston (Christian Bale, Terminator Salvation), an elite killing machine who is hailed as the best of the best amongst his peers and an unflappable protector of the regime's doctrine. He even kills his partner (Sean Bean, Flightplan) for perusing a confiscated poetry book. When Preston accidentally misses his morning dose of the emotion-stifling drug, he begins to experience emotions -- concern, regret, despair, uncertainty -- that threaten his job and his life. His new partner Brandt (Taye Diggs, Go) notices the changes and suspects Preston of harboring emotions. When Preston finally awakens to a moment of catharsis, he goes on the offensive with the purpose of eliminating the totalitarian regime that has in essence destroyed mankind for the sake of saving it.
Equilibrium may be a damning look at forcible control and the dangers of sacrificing freedom for safety, but it exists in the superficial guise of an Action movie. Certainly the themes are plainly obvious but the picture is structurally a basic run-and-gun/martial arts hybrid sort of affair that demonstrates great artistic proficiency in showcasing the various skills of the "Clerics" who shoot like RoboCop and sword fight like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It's hard to fathom such skill in an emotionless world, how people of such natural gifts could be selected for the job when human emotions such as pride are outlawed and flaunting demonstrations of athletic skill would be, at best, frowned upon. There are certainly other liberties taken in the film, such as the remaining institution of marriage which would seem to have no bearing in a world governed through the absence of emotion, for what is marriage but an open proclamation of the greatest emotion of them all? Perhaps it's a means through which those in charge can guarantee themselves future "subjects" over whom to rule, but that would suggest some sense of personal satisfaction -- hubris, maybe -- at the holding of personal power and authority over others. Certainly the powers-that-be would not themselves eschew the lifestyle they force upon their subjects...would they? Regardless of a few plot holes, Equilibrium works because of its adherence to principals and a willingness to tell a daring, damning story that often feels all-too-real or, at the very least, all-too-plausibly-real in a real world where strife is common and ever-shrinking liberties are shrugged off as the necessary price to pay for safety and "happiness" by those with the loudest voice and in the highest positions of power and influence.
No matter its relative merits as an Action film or the negatives of a few question marks; the pulse of Equilibrium beats most strongly in the story. It's certainly not allegorical -- there are no allusions here, everything is front-and-center -- but it is instead made obvious so as to more succinctly make its point. That's not to the film's detriment; while allegory is often used to strong, tone-establishing, purpose-revealing commentary, Equilibrium's matter-of-fact tone resonates just as strongly and achieves the same kind of success even if the point isn't made in a more shadowy, undercover sense that's defined many of the great cautionary tales of yore. The film makes a point to emphasize the crime of individuality and the norm of conformity, the perceived dangers of emotion, and the perceived stability of the lack thereof. Though the special effects don't hold up well and the sets are (deliberately) stale and sterile, Equilibrium masterfully creates a mood which necessarily supersedes all else. The film's picture of an obviously totalitarian regime controlling a de facto slave race (to what end is never exactly revealed, though it's certainly implied) that has willingly sacrificed its very essence for the guarantee of security is vividly, if not sometimes too obviously, drawn, but then again the film focuses on a society built on extremes, which implies, if not demands, simplicity and the obvious above all else. The message would certainly be too heavy-handed -- though no less relevant -- without its dazzling action pieces offsetting the somber tone, but Equilibrium absolutely thrives as an achievement of film that engenders critical thinking and that speaks loudly and clearly on the dangers of the slippery slope that is the sacrifice of freedom for some idealistic but foolhardy goal that simply cannot be achieved at the business end of a gun, through the swallowing of a pill, and by the removal of any and all emotion and individuality. The human spirit is too strong.
Equilibrium Blu-ray, Video Quality
Equilibrium's 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer is one of those that looks good at-a-glance, but a more critical analysis reveals plenty of problems. First and foremost, the image is presented in an "HDTV full frame" 1.78:1 aspect ratio rather than its wider 2.35:1-or-thereabouts theatrical presentation. While the film is said to have been shot in Super35, the blow-up from its theatrical exhibition aspect ratio, presumably for the sake of eliminating "black bars" from the equation, is unacceptable, even if there's little information actually lost along the way. That said, Equilibrium doesn't look bad in places. Fine detail can be quite good; skin textures are often quite revealing, while clothing and even close-ups of firearms reveal crisp, accurate details. Colors are limited to cold, steely, lifeless shades for the most part; Equilibrium is by design cold and gray, but what few splashes of color exist beyond white and gray and black appear neutral and accurate. Black levels are decent, never looking washed out and exhibiting only slight, if any, crush. Flesh tones are often a bit pale, which seems in-line with the film's intended look. So far, so good, but Equilibrium features an over-sharpened appearance and is absolutely slathered in edge enhancement, some of the heaviest that one is ever likely to see on a Blu-ray disc. Additionally, it appears that at least some noise reduction has been applied, but only sporadically so; grain is present in some scenes, wiped away in others. Banding and blocking are of only minor concern. Remove the excess edge enhancement and display the film in its proper aspect ratio and this would be a quality transfer, but alas, it just wasn't meant to be this go-round.
Equilibrium Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unfortunately, Equilibrium hasn't received the sonic treatment the film not only deserves, but demands. The included DTS-HD MA 2.0 lossless soundtrack just doesn't cut it. Though it tries and struggles and does all it can, the sonic presentation is decidedly lacking. The front-heavy feel does a disservice to the film's many action scenes, where it sounds like half the soundstage has simply been chopped off. Action effects are cramped, and with the back channels effectively dead, the confined sensation puts forth a sour note. Where there should be fuller, more lively action elements, there's nothing. Sure, gunfire zips across the front half of the soundstage with a good deal of energy and even creates a few front-end directional effects, but that it just seems to stop dead in its tracks is jarring to say the least. This track does squeeze out a decent low end, but clarity is a real problem area in most every area save dialogue. Dialogue occasionally seems to bleed over to the side for no apparent reason, but such instances are the exception rather than the rule, the spoken word generally firmly entrenched in the center speaker and playing with suitable stability and clarity. Of all of the recent wave of 2.0 rather than 5.1 soundtracks, this might be the most adversely-effected film. A lossy 5.1 mix would have been preferable to a two-channel lossless offering in this instance, never mind a full-fledged 5.1 lossless soundtrack.
Equilibrium Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Equilibrium's Blu-ray release actually contains one extra, a featurette entitled Finding 'Equlibrium' (480p, 4:26). It's a disappointingly brief and by-the-numbers rapid-fire making-of piece that features cast and crew talking up the movie, intercut with clips form the film and behind-the-scenes footage.
Equilibrium Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Equilibrium rings true, or rings with a potential to be true, with every viewing. In it, people are sheep and the human condition has all but been eradicated under the false premise of safety and security. Of course, it's all about the price one must pay for such things, and in Equilibrium, that's the soul, at least figuratively speaking. This is an engaging and wonderfully thought-provoking picture that explores the value of human life in the physical sense versus the spiritual and emotional senses. There's so much talk about "safety" and "security" both in the film and in real life that one must decide what the true price of liberty must be and on what is placed a higher value: the body or the soul. Is life truly worth living - - and may it even be called living -- if man forcibly devolves into mindless, drug-controlled robots who serve no purpose either in their own lives or for the greater good of society? Equilibrium posits such questions while in the guise of an Action picture, but make no mistake, this is much more than that. Unfortunately, Echo Bridge's Blu-ray release of this important and cult-favorite film features a subpar technical presentation and only one extra. Viewers must choose how much they will sacrifice to own a neutered copy of the film. Quite the parallel to the picture's themes, no? Oh the irony.
Blu-ray bundles with Equilibrium (5 bundles)
Equilibrium Blu-ray, News and Updates
• New Miramax/Dimension Blu-ray Wave from Echo Bridge - March 25, 2011
According to early retailer information, on May 10 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment will release on Blu-ray no fewer than seven movies from the Miramax/Dimension catalog: Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, Dracula 2000, Equilibrium, Halloween: The Curse of ...
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Equilibrium Blu-ray Screenshots
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