Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend Lifeline

So we had a ton of stuff go down in ways of reviews and whatnot in the second half of this week, and none of it got printed in the paper or referred to online. So like a jolly Saint Nick, I'm going to stuff three movie reviews, a concert review-coverage, a new CD review, and just for S's and G's, a CD review that printed this week, down your chimney.

-Metallica's "Death Magnetic" is like a musical confession that "St. Anger" was indeed crap.
-CMU student film premieres at local cinema, impresses without taking an extra step to greatness
-"Burn After Reading" is the Coens' cynical, indulgent post-"No Country" victory lap.
-"Righteous Kill" offers moderate psychological-thriller action, old actors yelling.
-Acoustic songbird Jessica Sonner charms the Real Food on Campus restaurant.
-"Red Letter Year" made me fall in love with Ani DiFranco.

So with the magical gift of those articles, I certainly couldn't have anything else for you today, could I?

Surprise! I am going to start a new, hopefully ongoing series of pieces called "You Gotta See This!" in which I discuss movies that have been out, and friends, critics, reviewers, and forum trolls have unendingly told me they are necessary viewing, but have simply never gotten around to watching them.

This week, I rented 2002's "Equilibrium," directed and written by Kurt Wimmer, starring Christian Bale and Taye Diggs.

The film takes place in a post-World War III future, where in order to prevent another potentially humanity-erasing war, a totalitarian government takes over and sees that all human feeling is pharmaceutically repressed.

Those who refuse to give up their emotions and feelings, called "sense offenders," are considered the highest level of outlaws, and are hunted down by special police called Grammaton Clerics and killed.

Christian Bale plays John Preston, the highest-ranking and most distinguished of these clerics. After his wife was killed as a sense offender, and he is forced to gun down his own partner for having feelings, Preston himself eventually stops taking his meds, and gives in to the forbidden world of art, emotion, love, regret, anger and revenge.

Bale is fantastic in his role, as a man who, all at once, feels a rush of emotions for the first time of his life, but has no choice but to suppress these feelings at the risk of death. More than the dialogue, his performance is in his face: The muscles tightening and bulging as he feels a rush of guilt or fear, and his eyes writing novels about the character's predicament.

Taye Diggs, although acting-wise is not even in the same atmosphere as Bale, does well as Brandt, Preston's new partner who fancies himself Preston's foil.

The underground resistance of sense offenders is criminally underused, particularly their leader, played by Bill Fichtner (most recently seen as the shotgun-wielding bank manager in "The Dark Knight").

The look of the film is slick, with flat colors, blacks and greys bathing out most of the film to reflect society's unfeeling frigidity, but jarringly bathed in warm color to represent pivotal emotional scenes.

The plot is an intriguing moral play about what makes us human, and what society would be if that were taken away. The whole thing is fascinating...until the resolution.

*Yar, thar be spoilers right ahead matey!*

After the buildup of the entire movie, Preston triumphs, but not because of his newfound emotion or anything like that.

No, Preston is victorious because of his insane combat skill, which had been established at the beginning of the movie and remains stagnant throughout. Basically, he wins because he is a bigger badass than everybody else, because that's just the way it is and that aspect of his character does not need explaining. It's anticlimactic, and detracts from the dynamic development of Bale's character throughout the movie.

"Equilibrium" is definitely an interesting movie that took the post-"Matrix" film climate and innovated on it in groundbreaking ways. However, I think the film is ultimately unfulfilling, and although worth a watch, is not a must-see.

No comments: