Welcome to the future nation of Libria, where art is banned, music forbidden and emotions outlawed. The inhabitants are kept compliant through regular doses of emotion-suppressor drug Prozium, and warrior Clerics root out "sense offenders", enforcing the law through martial-arts skills and big black coats. Yes, Big Brother is back. And this time he's got Sean Pertwee's face...
Borrowing liberally from far superior efforts, Equilibrium wants to be a Matrix-style equivalent of what sci-fi literature does so well: the morality play. Sadly, the genre's films rarely meet with the same success and this is no exception. The movie looks cool but the story's pure clag. And yes, the Gun-Kata (an impressive man-ballet of weaponry and martial-arts stances) offers attention-grabbing set-pieces, but it soon becomes repetitive.
In short, Kurt Wimmer's directorial debut is like a Ferrari built around a Robin Reliant engine - - nice to look at, but crap to drive. Christian Bale's journey from sentiment-bypassed lawkeeper to emoto-rebel is littered with clichés, from the cute puppy he rescues to the almost-romance he shares with Emily Watson. And along the way, the narrative texture unravels. Why do all the supposedly emotionless villains gurn in fear when confronted by Bale's betrayal? And if the authorities are so concerned about emotions that everyone dresses in muted pastels, why is Emily Watson wearing various pretty dresses while awaiting execution?
Not one to think about then, but those desperate for the return of Neo will find this a quick fix to keep the monkey off their back. Trouble is, it'll be replaced by a bloody big gorilla once the initial adrenaline burst wears off.
Teetering precariously between Matrix-fuelled mainstream glory and the straight-to-video sci-fi netherworld ruled by Rutger Hauer, Equilibrium is stylish but stupid. Neo, you really are The One.