Thursday, June 01, 2006
91. Fahrenheit 1984, with Extreme Prejudice
As I've always maintained, Humble Viewing is work. You have to get up early, fuss and fiddle with Netflix, wait breathlessly to see if the out-of-the-blue movie you've chosen is Humble enough for Viewing, then submit: to the movie as it makes its way into your head and then onto the page. This page.
And indeed, I'm writing about Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium (2002) at the tail-end of this laborious process. I began with Netflix's "Your Recommendations"--which, after I'd rated a few thousand movies on the site, knows me better than I do--and trawled around in Science Fiction/Fantasy, looking for stars I knew--like the present film's Christian Bale--and the good word from My Constant Guides, Ebert and Maltin. This one is mostly Ebert's. He made me curious to see a movie than sounded like a martial arts hybrid of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.
Which it is, albeit not always comfortably. The Matrix-like "gun-kata" fight sequences mixed with pitch-perfect, even nuanced, totalitarianism-bashing provide me an opportunity to employ with complete certainty the cliche that it was like watching two movies. I thought both were compelling, but as compatible as THX-1138 and The Fifth Element--and I'm only thinking of those two films' color schemes.
Fortunately, almost every scene in Equilibrium includes closeups of Bale, as though Wimmer were counting on that face to carry us from shoot-em-up to ruminate-on-it without any jostling. And it almost works. After American Psycho, The Machinist, and Batman Returns, I think Bale has managed to convince us that he has more facial control than anyone--except maybe De Niro; but the latter hasn't needed it much lately. He's an existential Cary Grant, ready to blow his lid even while half-smiling. And half the time you can't tell what the hell he's thinking, which is really cool--and I'm using that word in its proper sense. Somewhere between Steve McQueen's squint and--well, Clint Eastwood's--and somewhere between De Niro's "This is this" in The Deer Hunter and Sean Connery's disregard for your--well, your very presence in the audience--Christian Bale stares you down, and makes you attend. I think without that insistent face, Equilibrium would lose its balance (sorry).
I will add that the gun-kata stuff is pretty compelling, and that Wimmer knows how to keep me interested in illogical action sequences--at least he does in this movie: I was disappointed to read how awful his latest, Ultraviolet, seems to be. That's a shame: I'm always ready to enjoy Milla Jovovich, cinema's most beloved skinny marink. So even if Equilibrium is his one shot--but that's unfair; as a director, Wimmer's been at it for only a few years--it's not the worst head-on collision of genres one could imagine. Besides, I'm eager to point out techno-movies that have neater gunplay than The Matrix. And Bale is even better at deadpan than Keanu Reeves. (I think because the former does it on purpose; however, I'm not here to be snide, especially toward Reeves, whom I support against all odds. But I digress.) And last--and best--Equilibrium makes you remember how much fun it is to get excited over things, swearing and swooning until all that freedom tuckers you out enough to realize what you should have been feeling all along.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 10:49 AM
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