by Brad Nelson
Please don’t read further if you are politically sensitive and don’t like wise-asses such as me. I’m quite passionate about freedom, and this is certainly one reason I love these kinds of movies. I love stories and movies about dystopia, including “1984,” “Fahrenheit 451” (not to be confused with Michael Moore’s propaganda film), “Animal Farm,” “Brazil,” (Robert DeNiro is wonderful in that) and, last but not least, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” You could throw in “Schindler’s List” as well if you want because Nazism was a similar phenomenon of the political left. (They were national socialists after all.)
I don’t think we Americas and Westerners appreciate our freedoms as we should. I think we’ve become a bunch of cry-babies. I mean, look at how we’re borrowing money from the generations to come in order to pay for the entitlements that we lavish upon ourselves today (we have an estimated one hundred trillion in unfunded socialist entitlement liabilities). Some call this “generational theft,” and I agree. And sometimes there’s nothing like a good dystopia movie to not only make you appreciate freedom, but to bolster your own vision, courage, and skepticism towards the creeping Utopian visions being thrust on us today, whether we like it or not, whether we can afford it or not.
“Equilibrium” is, of course, another Keanu Reeves movie. Keanu reprises his role as….wait a minute. A piece of viewer mail has just come in setting me straight on a few facts. Apparently that is *not* Keanu Reeves in the starring role, but is Christian Bale. My mistake, and an easy mistake to make indeed. This is a very Matrix-like movie in many places. Heck, Bale does his best to look almost exactly like Keanu Reeves. I don’t know which movie came first, “Equilibrium” or “The Matrix,” but the similarities are striking. For what it’s worth, I think Keanu does “bullet time” Kung Fu better. But Bale does pull it off well enough. Remember…dystopia isn’t going to be fun for anyone, so suffering through a little plastic-like monotone Christian Bale is perfect for setting the mood.
This movie is actually a mix of “The Matrix”, “1984,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “A Political Party and Their Global Policies Who Shall Remain Nameless.” As I said elsewhere, if you put those three movies in a blender, what you’d come out with is “Equilibrium.” Despite the obvious un-originality of the film, it’s still more or less an enjoyable movie. It narrowly avoids suffering from the “Twilight Zone” effect. That’s when someone takes a good and somewhat gimmicky idea, which might work in a 50 minute long episode, and tries to stretch it out to movie length. Equilibrium is a bit like that, and yet I do think it holds itself together well enough due to its main theme that is a strong and timeless one.
And that theme is the theme of the delicate, expressive, personal, warm, creative, feeling human life in opposition to the cold, hard, demanding, Orwellian, control-oriented father (or mother) state. I think few of us have what it takes to stand up to the bully of political correctness which I see as the leading edge of ushering in the dystopia of our time. But take, for example, the charming woman in “Equilibrium,” who has been taken prisoner for committing some kind of “sense crime.” She has bucked political correctness. She has dared not to conform. She has dared to feel. She has dared to be an individual. She has dared to think for herself. And she will pay a heavy price for maintaining her own personality and individuality, and that price will be her life. But she will die a human being and not a tool of the state. Let me quote a line from an Amazon.com reviewer’s summation of Friedrich Hayek’s book, “The Road to Serfdom,” which I think is a great reminder of how such dystopias come to be. They are produced, surrender by personal surrender:
True believers in a socialist society must hold the interests of the State as higher than their own. Those who will move up the ranks in a socialist society are often prepared to do anything on behalf of the state, no matter how much this opposes one’s own moral principles. Those who are amoral are thus more likely to “succeed” in a socialist hierarchy.
How and why does an oppressive totalitarian state ever take hold? Yes, coercive violence or threats of fine or imprisonment are some of the biggest reasons. But there are also legions of people who, instead of resisting the pull of the state, suck up to it, hoping to be part of the elite structure. In all totalitarian states, there are always the elites at the top for whom the rules don’t apply, and that has great appeal, and there will always be those jockeying for position, ready to cast off long-term freedom for short-term gain.
Brick by brick the Orwellian state is built by such surrenders. And each surrender of personal freedom means another brick is added to the power of the state. And the state will try to sanctify this surrender, even turning it into a religious-like submission. And this is where the term “Orwellian” really comes into play. Words and meanings are shifted and manipulated by the state in order to bamboozle and intimidate. In our day and age such elitism and word-munging manifests itself, for example, in people flying around in private jets while telling the rest of us plebs that we must grovel for carbon credits and throw away our incandescent bulbs.
And in “Equilibrium,” you get the same sort of elitist structure. I hadn’t seen this movie in a long time, but I told the friend I was watching it with to watch for the elites having all the nice things that are forbidden to the rest. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens. “The Father” has all the best stuff in his private office. The same thing is inherent to Communism. The Soviet elite had all the best food and homes while quite literally millions were starving to death. While politicians tell us that we must have completely state-run health care that turns doctor care into something like waiting in line at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, they, in Congress, are not subject to such rules and get the best of care.
Although the movie itself is somewhat difficult to apply to our times because it’s a bit of an extreme situation, the general principles and effects of the totalitarian mindset show up easily enough in our culture, as I have articulated above. And even the extreme is sometimes not really so extreme. In “Equilibrium,” it is the “sense crime” that one is ever on guard against committing. It has been determined in that fictional society by the elitist leaders that it is feeling that has led to all the bad stuff such as war and crime, so therefore they have decided that in order to create the perfect society, all you have to do is get rid of emotion. In order to do that, they force everyone to take a zombie-fying drug.
And in case that isn’t enough, this Orwellian state also attempts to remove all temptation from people. Books, movies, old trinkets and bobbles – anything that might elicit a warm emotion – is forbidden. The art direction of the movie itself does a very good job of showing a cold, gray society with very few paintings or statues of any kind. The environs are dull and flat except for the ever-present wall-mounted moving pictures and the voice of “Father.” Orwell’s “thought crime” is this movie’s “sense crime” and perhaps our time’s “hate speech crime.” The themes in the movie are generally quite good as is the acting. Of particular note is the performance of the tall-hair Father spokesman. He’s wonderful at playing the creepy Scientologist-like manipulative “true believer” who probably believes (like most of them do) in little more than his own power.
But much of this movie is uneven and illogical. You have people screaming and yelling at Keanu (errr, I mean “Bale”) for supposedly committing the crime of feeling. Well, isn’t screaming and yelling at someone a sense crime as well? And how did those children get so savvy? (I won’t explain further about this or it would spoil it if you haven’t seen it.) It’s never explained. And that goofy Matrix-like “bullet time” stuff, although I think it works in “The Matrix,” doesn’t add much to “Equilibrium,” although I admit it is sort of cool at times. But it just seems like another movie has been inserted into it.
But overall I do think this movie is a good portrayal of the struggle between humanity and the oppressive state. And I think Bale is more than serviceable in the role of the man struggling with his own conscience as he’s caught between the need to conform to the powers that be and the human longing to be an individual. The themes in this movie are relevant to our times and I fear will always be relevant to whatever age we inhabit. I give this 3 stars out of 5 Pelosis. • (1984 views)