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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film is violent. The opening scenes show a sense police raid, involving much shooting and death. The closing scenes are of greater violence, big explosions and more death. In between there is intermittent violence and death. Despite this, the film isn't unusually violent for this kind of movie, and the deaths aren't gory. Some younger children might be upset by the sense police's arrest and abduction of Preston's wife in front of her young family.
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What's the story?
Equilibrium is set in the joyless state of Libria, a post-nuclear apocalypse, early 21st-century society where all human emotions are outlawed in order to prevent war. Any materials, such as books or artworks, that might cause people to feel sensations are destroyed, as are those who engage in their production, dissemination or appreciation. Human instincts are kept in check through the mind-numbing drug Prozium. The protectors of this violent peace are the "clerics." They are highly trained to detect anyone failing to take Prozium doses and destroy members of the underground. John Preston (Christian Bale) is a leading cleric, ruthless in his tracking down and eradicating of sense criminals, even those closest to him. However, after a potent meeting with underground member, Mary (Emily Watson), and a missed dose of Prozium, Preston begins to have feelings, and decides to bring down the system from the inside, a dangerous mission indeed.
Is it any good?
This intense, unsettling film draws heavily from George Orwell's classic, 1984. Writer/director Kurt Wimmer substitutes "Big Brother" for "Father," whose voice and features are projected across Libria on enormous television screens, constantly reminding people of the dangers of the natural human state and the devastation it had led to in earlier, less sophisticated societies. Where Orwell has "thought police," Wimmer has "sense police." States in Orwell's world subdue their populations by the need to maintain their war efforts, while Libria's justifies the abuse of its people through the notion of sustaining peace.
There are a number of interesting issues that Equilibrium sets up to address. In discussions with children these could easily be drawn out, but the film itself descends into a predictable and formulaic shoot-em-up sci-fi action movie. The ninja-based gun fighting style used by the clerics verges on the balletic, but for any admirer of this film genre, they will have witnessed almost identical scenes in The Matrix.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Preston, emotion and beauty win over the dour, controlling Librian state, yet rather than straightforward tales of good over evil, the film leads one to question these opposing concepts. Peace is surely good, but in this case evil derives from an all-consuming quest for peace, which itself breeds violence. Familes can also talk about how the importance of love, loyalty and joy abound in this film, but glory is associated with violence and destruction
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