Equilibrium (2002 movie)

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DVD case cover for Equilibrium, US version

Equilibrium is a 2002 action/science fiction film written and directed by Kurt Wimmer. Similarities to classic dystopian novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World are evident.



Following an apocalyptic Third World War, the strict government of the dystopian city-state Libria has eliminated war by suppressing all human emotion. In the monochromatic and sedate society, artifacts from the old world are destroyed and the population is required to use sedatory drugs. Grammaton Cleric Preston, a man trained to locate and arrest those guilty of feeling emotions, finds himself abandoning the drug and experiencing outlawed feelings. As he struggles to contain his feelings from his superiors, colleagues, and family, Preston finds himself drawn into a sinister world of double-crossings and lies, and becomes an unwitting pawn in a sophisticated plot which ultimately changes the repressed society forever.


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Equilibrium is set in the year 2072, in the dystopian city-state of Libria. The film explains how, in the early years of the twenty-first century, a Third World War breaks out, the impact of which brings civilisations across the planet to their knees. After the war ends, world leaders fear that the human race cannot possibly survive a Fourth World War, and so set about building a new society which is free of conflict. Believing that human emotion is responsible for man's inhumanity to man, the new leaders ban all materials deemed likely to stimulate strong emotions, including art, music, and literature (these materials are rated "EC-10" for "emotional content" and typically destroyed by immediate incineration). All citizens of Libria are required to take regular injections - "intervals" - of a liquid drug called Prozium, collected at distribution centres called Equilibrium. Prozium suppresses strong emotions, creating a sedate and conformist society. The loss of emotions is a heavy price, but it is considered to be one paid gladly in exchange for the elimination of war and crime.

Libria is governed by the Tetragrammaton council, which is led by the reclusive figurehead known as "Father". Father never interacts with anyone outside the ruling council, but his image is omnipresent throughout the city in a strong cult of personality. The Tetragrammaton Council strives to create identical lives for all Librians, and uses its police state apparatus to enforce unity and conformity; nevertheless, there is a formal procedure of "processing" and trial pursued via the Palace of Justice prior to terminating enemies of the state (except in the case of unidentified persons, subject to summary destruction). At the pinnacle of Librian law-enforcement are the Grammaton Clerics, a special order of police trained in the deadly martial art of Gun Kata, an art which teaches users to predict the actions of opponents during firearm combat. The Clerics exist for the purpose of locating and destroying EC-10 materials, and for pursuing, apprehending, and (as necessary) terminating "sense-offenders," people guilty of feeling emotions. Despite the efforts of the police and Clerics, a resistance movement exists in Libria, known as "The Underground". Members of this movement believe that war and crime are a small price to pay in order to experience human emotions, and consequently they are responsible for terrorist activity against Libria, targeted specifically against the Prozium factories. The leaders of the Underground believe that if they can disrupt the production and distribution of Prozium for a short period of time - even a single day - then the Librians will rise up and destroy the Tetragrammaton Council. The Underground operates within Libria itself, but also has contact with resistance groups hiding in "The Nethers" - the ruins of the cities destroyed during the Third World War. These groups hoard objects and artifacts from the old society before World War III, including art and literature. Subsequently, they are the targets of Librian death squads composed of police and Clerics.

The film's protagonist, Grammaton Cleric First Class John Preston, is one of Libria's highest ranking Clerics, whose success stems from his intuitive ability to identify sense-offenders. After a raid on a group of resistance members in The Nethers (which ends with the destruction of the Mona Lisa), Preston notices that his partner, Grammaton Cleric First Class Errol Partridge, has personally taken a copy of the poems of Yeats under false pretences. Preston discovers that Partridge has not turned the book over for destruction, so follows him to a ruined cathedral in the Nethers, where Partridge talks of the loss of everything that makes them human, most notably the right to experience emotions. When Preston argues that emotions lead to jealousy, hatred, and destruction, Partridge admits that it is a heavy price to pay, but one worth paying. Preston summarily executes Partridge for sensecrime. Shortly afterwards, Preston accidently breaks his morning dose of Prozium, and begins to experience emotions. Preston is assigned a new partner, the career-conscious Brandt, who claims to have similarly perceptive abilities in identifying sense offenders. Following a standard police raid on Mary O'Brien, a Librian woman who has stopped taking Prozium, his emotional confusion is exacerbated during her interrogation. Subsequent attacks and raids into the Nethers expose Preston to illegal objects salvaged from the ruined cities, such as music, and his fledgling emotions are further stimulated by seeing the sunrise over the skyscrapers of Libria, and being ordered to execute a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy in the Nethers. Preston has by now ceased taking Prozium, and is forced to try and maintain his monotone and emotionless facade in front of his son and the increasingly suspicious Brandt. Over the course of the film, Preston's behavior increasingly mirrors that of Partridge in the beginning, even to the point of repeated dialogue.

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Soon, Preston is involved in increasingly illegal activities, including regular visits to the Nethers. During one such visit to return the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy he rescued, he is forced to kill several Librian policemen. Brandt, having seen Preston re-arranging his desk (signalling a dislike of conformity) and attempting to save resistance members during a raid in the Nethers, becomes suspicious, and before long Preston is summoned before Vice-Counsel DuPont, a high-ranking member of the Tetragrammaton Council. Preston explains that he is attempting to infiltrate the Resistance in order to destroy it. DuPont tells him that he has heard rumors of a cleric attempting to join the Resistance (a reference to Preston's own unreported activities), and Preston promises to find this traitor. Preston unwittingly makes contact with the Underground, who inform him that they have been watching his progress for some time. He agrees to assassinate Father, an act which will create enough confusion for the Underground to detonate bombs in Libria's Prozium factories and hopefully bring down the Tetragrammaton Council. However, after watching the execution of Mary O'Brien in Libria's furnaces, Preston weeps uncontrollably, and, during this clear demonstration of strong emotion, he is arrested for sensecrime by Brandt. Brandt brings Preston before DuPont, claiming that he has captured the traitor and accusing Preston of not taking Prozium, killing a police patrol in the Nethers, and conspiring with the Underground to assassinate Father and destroy the Council. Preston, however, turns the tables on Brandt. During a previous raid in the Nethers, Preston secretly swapped guns with Brandt, and so informs the Council that the policemen were killed with the weapon currently in Brandt's possession. Brandt realises that he has been set up and tries to inform DuPont, but is taken away for trial and execution on the orders of DuPont. Apparently cleared, Preston is released. He returns home to destroy his stashed Prozium before a police patrol finds it, and is confronted by his young son. Preston fears that his son will betray him to the police for not taking Prozium, but he in fact reveals to Preston that he and his sister have not taken Prozium for some time. Relieved, Preston goes ahead with his plan. As part of an elaborate plot formed with the Underground, the leaders of the Resistance turn themelves in to Preston, who persuades DuPont to grant him an audience with Father, during which he intends to assassinate Father and spark off a general uprising against the Librian government.
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Preston arrives at the seat of the Librian government for his audience with Father, and is advised that as a security measure, he is to have no weapons in Father's presence and is required to take a lie detector test, which he had first encountered with the Underground. His emotions are picked up by the lie detector, and it is soon revealed that Preston has been tricked. Via a telescreen, Father speaks to Preston, revealing that he has been aware of Preston's sensecrime, and has staged Brandt's arrest in order to lull Preston into a false sense of security and allow him to think that his assassination scheme can go ahead. Thus, Preston has been tricked into handing over Libria's enemies whilst simultaneously walking right into Brandt's trap. Preston, defeated, asks Father how he was aware of the plot. The face on the telescreen changes, revealing the face of Vice-Council DuPont, who explains that the real Father died years ago, and that the Tetragrammaton Council elected DuPont as the new Head of State. He has simply used the image of Father as a political figurehead. Preston, however, immediately regains control of his spiralling emotions, and, using pistols that he has sneaked in beneath his ceremonial uniform, kills the guards surrounding him. He makes his way through the corridors of the Tetragrammaton Headquarters, killing several dozen guards, until he encounters DuPont and Brandt at DuPont's office, a richly decorated room revealing that Libria's ruling elite are sense offenders themselves. A swordfight ensues in which Preston quickly dispatches DuPont's elite bodyguards and finally Brandt himself (none of whom have time to put up any resistance). Preston and DuPont engage in a final hand-to-hand gun-kata duel with pistols, and Preston eventually manages to disarm DuPont. Weaponless, DuPont tries to bargain for his life with Preston, arguing that Preston, a human being with emotions, cannot kill him, another human being with emotions. He asks if it is a price worth paying. Remembering Mary's execution, Preston replies that it is, and shoots DuPont. Preston then destroys the telescreen propaganda machines which broadcast across Libria, and the device which projects stunningly realistic holographic images of Father. Realising that the Tetragrammaton Council is faced with a crisis, terrorists detonate bombs in Libria's Prozium factories. The film ends from different views - Preston's son smiling from his school desk as the Prozium factories explode, Preston's daughter playing at home with the Bernese Mountain Dog puppy while the telescreens shut down, the leaders of the Underground cheering at their execution as they hear the bombs explode across Libria, and Preston himself watching through the windows of DuPont's office as the citizens of Libria run riot through the streets, slaughtering police and clerics, signalling the collapse of the Tetragrammaton Council.

Tagline: In a future where freedom is outlawed outlaws will become heroes.

Gun Kata

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Gun Kata technique

Gun Kata is a fictitious gun-fighting martial arts discipline that features as part of the movie. Gun Kata is based upon the premise that the positions and actions of antagonists are generally the same in any given combat situation. The different movements and positions learnt through Gun Kata are designed to give the student the best average cover of fire in any of these situations.

Literary references

Equilibrium contains many references to similar works of dystopian fiction, most notably George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World; Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 contains similar parallels.


Equilibrium, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Brave New World all take place in the near future following a catastrophic war. Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1948, imagines a society formed following worldwide revolutions and civil wars in the aftermath of the Second World War. The society of Brave New World is closest to that of Equilibrium - it imagines a devastating war in the near future which obliges world leaders to sweep away the past and create a new society in which war cannot take place. In Brave New World, the World Controllers eliminate war by uniting the planet as one country - The World State. In Equilibrium, the Tetragrammaton Council eliminates war by forcibly surpressing emotions. The film never reveals whether there are other states in the world. A globe (with distorted tectonic plates) in Vice Council DuPont's office suggests that Libria encompasses the entire planet, but this suspicion is neither confirmed nor denied.

Drug use

The use of sedatory materials to keep society calm and placated is a central theme in both the movie and Brave New World. In Brave New World the drug soma is taken in tablet form and makes users mindlessly happy. Soma was the inspiration for Equilibrium's "Prozium" (a portmanteau between Prozac and Valium), an injected drug that represses all emotions.

Living standard

The standard of living is relatively similar in Brave New World and Equilibrium. Whilst Nineteen Eighty-Four imagines a squalid and materially deprived society, the citizens of Brave New World enjoy clean, comfortable lives with plenty of everything. The same could be said for the Prozium users living in the protected fortress in Equilibrium, however those who refuse to take the drug live in scattered enclaves in the ruins outside the cities (the nethers) as well as beneath the city itself.


The surveillance society of Nineteen Eighty-Four is replicated in the film. The two-way telescreens of Nineteen Eighty-Four are a feature of Libria. In both stories, the telescreens serve to broadcast propaganda, but those of Nineteen Eighty-Four also allow the police to watch people at leisure. Another difference is in the content of the telescreen broadcasts: Nineteen Eighty-Four broadcasts news reports on the endless war, lists of condemned criminals, and falsified historical information, while those of Equilibrium display "genuine" historical information and explanations of Tetragrammaton doctrine read by Father.


Several images from Brave New World are used in Equilibrium, such as the letter T. In Brave New World, the Christian cross has been replaced with the similarly-shaped letter T, a reference to the Model T car designed by Henry Ford, and its image is everywhere. Equilibrium pays homage to this - the windows of DuPont's office and government buildings are T-shaped, and the flag of Libria (based on that of the Khmer Rouge), features four letter T's in a ring.

Often though it is assumed that the figure of Father is a direct reference to Nineteen Eighty-Four's Big Brother. The writer/director, Kurt Wimmer, disputes this notion in the DVD commentary for the film when he states the following: "A lot of people that watched this film assume that this Father figure, the fact that he was named 'Father' was simply a transliteration of Big Brother in 1984. In fact that actually never really entered my mind, that wasn't the idea at all. In fact it was a resonance of these religious themes....the cross, the thinly disguise cross...Christian in what is essentially a nineteenth century deacon's frock. It was simply a resonance of these theological themes that hopefully resonate throughout this film."[1] (http://www.freewebs.com/equilibrium-movie/commentarya9.htm)



External links



Official sites:

  • Germany (http://www.equilibrium-film.de/)
  • Poland (http://www.spi.pl/equilibrium/index.html)
  • Taiwan (http://web.archive.org/web/20040607232024/www.ha-movie.com/official/equilibrium/index.html)
  • France (http://www.commeaucinema.com/sitesphp.php3?site=14110)
  • Italy (http://www.buenavista.it/xequilibrium.htm)bg:Еквилибриум

fr:Equilibrium it:Equilibrium de:Equilibrium - Killer of Emotions


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