The FILM IN WORDS Netflix Film of the Week: helping you navigate the filmic minefield of the nation’s favourite video streaming service.
Now that Christian Bale’s spectacular outing as The Dark Knight is most definitely behind us following a certain multi-film deal with an Oscar-winning director, and sometime actor (as long as he directs himself), it offers a perfect opportunity to look beyond the cape and cowl, and into his past and future performances. Released later this year, Out of the Furnace is already shaping up to be another powerful drama focused upon the relationship between two brothers (one of those brothers being the new Batman’s younger sibling, Casey Affleck) that will surely reaffirm Bale’s non-superhero acting chops in the same manner as David O. Russell’s The Fighter. Besides The Dark Knight Trilogy Bale is perhaps most synonymous with his stellar turn as bloodlusting yuppie, Patrick Bateman, in the 2000 film adaptation of Bret Easton-Ellis’ infamous novel, American Psycho.
Bale’s commitment to offering a distinct sense of physicality within highly contrasting roles, whether surviving off an apple, a cup of coffee, and a can of tuna to cut weight for his emaciated appearance in The Machinist, or immediately packing the muscle back on for Batman Begins, he has consistently offered a great deal of physical presence to his roles in the same vein as cinema’s greatest method actors. Alongside American Psycho and Reign of Fire, Equilibrium offers a clear identifier as to how Bale went on to become, and will most likely remain cinema’s most popular playboy vigilante.
Released in 2002, Bale stars as John Preston, a warrior-cleric enforcing the law in one of those pesky dystopian futures. The ultramodern shimmer and sheen of an ultimately soulless environment mirroring the cold removed nature of its inhabitants offers the perfect proving ground for the visceral flair of Equilibrium’s action to take centre stage. After losing his wife to government ‘removal’ due to her displays of artistic expression, and finally submitting to the sense of humanity which his superiors tried to erode via daily drug doses of emotion suppressant, Preston is left questioning his callous past actions and seeks out the underground resistance which fights the regime. Preston’s advanced training in martial-arts and automatic weaponry combined with his newfound moral clarity essentially turns the regime’s greatest weapon against them.
Undoubtedly there is a distinct air of The Matrix present in terms of both premise and content but Equilibrium’s pairing of Asian martial-arts flick action and hardboiled gunplay alongside western storytelling still feels fresh and cerebral despite its popular influences. The aesthetics are very strong as far as dystopian interpretations go and the supporting cast including Sean Bean and Brit go-to-baddy Sean Pertwee are more than competent in their roles. Ultimately, Equilibrium is a stylish, high-octane hybrid of sci-fi action and character-drama focused upon Bale’s impressive turn. It doesn’t necessarily need you to switch your brain all the way on to enjoy it, but your compliance will be rewarded if you do.