Equilibrium, also known as ‘Cubic’, is a 2002 American science fiction action film written and directed by Kurt Wimmer. It stars Christian Bale, Emily Watson and Taye Diggs. Bale portrays John Preston, a warrior-priest and enforcement officer in a future dystopia where both feelings and artistic expression are outlawed and citizens take daily injections of drugs to suppress their emotions. After accidentally missing a dose, Preston begins to experience emotions which make him question his own morality and moderate his actions, while attempting to remain undetected by the suspicious society in which he lives. Ultimately he aids a resistance movement using advanced martial arts, which he was taught serving the very regime he is to help overthrow.
Equilibrium is set in the futuristic and dystopian city-state of Libria. After a Third World War devastated the Earth, a totalitarian state emerged whose ideology determined human emotion to be the root cause of conflict. All emotionally stimulating material is banned and “sense offenders” are ruthlessly persecuted. Illegal materials are rated “EC-10” for “emotional content” (a reference to the MPAA film rating system), and destroyed by incineration. All citizens of Libria are required to take regular injections of the emotion-suppressing drug Prozium.
Libria is governed by the Tetragrammaton Council, which is led by a reclusive figurehead known as “Father” (Sean Pertwee). Father never interacts with anyone outside the ruling council, but he is omnipresent on giant video screens throughout the city. The Tetragrammaton Council uses its police state apparatus to enforce conformity. At the pinnacle of Librian law enforcement are the Grammaton Clerics, who are trained in the deadly martial art of gun kata. The Clerics regularly raid the region outside the city known as “the Nether” where they locate and destroy emotionally stimulating materials such as art and music and pursue and execute the people using them. Despite their efforts, however, a resistance movement, known as “the Underground”, has emerged in Libria.
The film’s main protagonist is the high ranking Grammaton Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale). He is a widower whose wife, Viviana (Alexa Summer), was executed for “Sense Offense”. After a raid on a group of rebels, Preston notices his partner, Errol Partridge (Sean Bean), taking a copy of Yeats poems instead of leaving it to be incinerated. He tracks down Partridge in the Nether and executes him. Before his death, Partridge says to Preston that all the consequences of feeling are a “cost he would pay gladly”. The next morning Preston accidentally breaks his vial of Prozium, and as he is unable to receive a replacement he begins to experience emotions himself. After eventually receiving his replacement Prozium, he decides against taking it.
Preston is assigned the career-conscious Brandt (Taye Diggs) as his new partner. Together, they arrest Mary O’Brien (Emily Watson). Preston’s emotional confusion is exacerbated during her interrogation. Without Prozium Preston finds it increasingly difficult to maintain his monotone and emotionless facade in front of his son (Matthew Harbour) and his suspicious partner. Preston forges an emotional connection with the imprisoned O’Brien, and he also feels remorse for having killed Partridge. He eventually contacts the Resistance and is summoned before Vice-Counsel DuPont (Angus Macfadyen) for suspicious behavior. DuPont tells him to redouble his efforts to exterminate the Resistance and to find the traitor among the clerics. The Resistance meanwhile convinces him to assassinate Father to set off a revolution. Their plan to disrupt Prozium production through sabotage will then lead to an uprising of the emotionally-awakened populace.
As Preston unsuccessfully attempts to stop Mary O’Brien’s execution he is caught breaking down in a wave of emotions by Brandt, who arrests him and brings him before the Vice-Counsel. Having convinced DuPont that his colleague is the real traitor, Preston rushes home to destroy the evidence of his nonconformity, but finds that his son – who reveals that he has not taken Prozium since his mother Viviana died – has already removed his unused Prozium vials.
As part of a plot by the Underground, the leaders of the Resistance then turn themselves in to grant Preston an audience with Father. Father turns out to be Vice-Counsel DuPont, who also does not take Prozium. Preston goes on a rampage, fighting his way to DuPont’s office, which is filled with artwork and ornate furniture. It also becomes clear from DuPont’s choice of words that he, too, has been reading the poems of Yeats. DuPont taunts him, asking Preston how it felt to betray the Underground. Preston kills first an army of guards then Brandt, with a katana. Finally Preston and DuPont face each other in a gun kata battle in which Preston emerges victorious. DuPont tries to convince Preston to spare him, asking if taking his life is worth the emotional cost knowing he is killing someone who is “feeling” and knows how beautiful life can be. Preston repeats the last words of Partridge and announces that he gladly will pay the cost, shooting DuPont in the chest. He then destroys the propaganda machines that have indoctrinated the people of Libria while the Underground detonates bombs and takes control of the city. The film ends with Preston holding O’Brien’s red ribbon, smiling.
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First Published: Apr 24, 2012 – Last Updated: Mar 10, 2013