Matrixian, Orwellian, and boneheadian, Equilibrium is a portentous sci-fi thriller of recycled ideas about a near future when no one is allowed to own any personal effects — including but not limited to books, perfume, DVDs of ”The Matrix,” or emotions. The only accoutrement a citizen of Libria needs is a sleek palm-size case containing ampoules of a liquid sense-deadener called Prozium and a gunlike injector; the primary responsibility of a docile citizen is to vaccinate himself regularly against the dangerous threat of caring. To dodge one’s dosage is punishable by death.
As a highly trained enforcer in this pharmacological dystopia, John Preston (Christian Bale) is chief thug, skilled at a snappy, highly art-directed, gun-toting form of Hong Kong-style martial arts. When Preston misses a hit of Prozium, however, he comes undone. Flooded with unfamiliar feelings, including an attraction to a ”sense offender” played by Emily Watson and an empathy with the Librian resistance led by William Fichtner, the ”American Psycho”-faced dude becomes a kind of double agent, surreptitiously supporting the underground while trying to pass as emotionless to evade the scrutiny of his enforcer partner, Taye Diggs.
A student so inclined could have a fine, obsessive time linking images and action sequences to all the influences (including ”1984,” ”Fahrenheit 451,” and ”Brave New World”) that have been scooped up wholesale by writer-director Kurt Wimmer, stirred in an often violent frenzy, and microwaved for serving. ”Equilibrium” wants to be about the importance of inextinguishable individuality in a’conformist society that overvalues staying calm and driving fast.’Actually, it’s about how it’s cool to jump around and wave guns.