The thinking man's nightmare is mind control. George Orwell was on about it in 1984. Aldous Huxley had his drones drugged into subservience in Brave New World. How the movies love to follow!

Post-Armageddon tends to arrive fully formed as a reactionary dictatorship, policed by jack-booted storm troopers and overseen by men in black leather duster coats. Equilibrium conforms to the stereotype, even to the extent of having surprisingly well-equipped groups of underground resistance fighters in the wings.

There is nothing new here. Violence exceeds the 15-certificate limitations because, being futuristic and comicbook in character, it cannot be taken seriously. The CGI effects dept slice a man's face in half and allow Cleric Preston (Christian Bale) to kill eight heavily armed guards at close quarters with blazing hand guns that never need reloading. Outlandish fight techniques - half magic/half gymnastic - worked with an element of wonder and disbelief in The Matrix, while here they look gratuitous and absurd.

Preston is a member of the secret police officer class, seeking out "feelers" in "The Nether." This translates as finding rebellious individuals, or communes, beyond the urban territories, that still read books and appreciate art - the Mona Lisa is torched during a raid - and systematically destroying them.

The citizens of Cliche City are expected to take a powerful antidepressant, called Prozium, that eliminates emotion. In addition, they must report anyone who shows signs of affection, fear, anger, enthusiasm, appreciation or sympathy. This is the Buddhist ideal of self-containment mixed with a fascist approach to brainwashing. One day, Preston stops taking the medication...

Emily Watson turns up looking like Ryan's daughter and is immediately incarcerated for overexcitement. Sean Bean quotes W B Yates in his RSC accent, before being discovered with a tear in his eye. Sean Pertwee plays Big Brother - not the house - as a talking head on hundreds of giant TV screens and Angus MacFadyen reintroduces timber into the body of a performance, as BB's No 2. Taye Diggs represents African America, as an ebony superheroic wannabe and Preston's partner in the feeler hunts. Bale acts with his cheekbones. The set piece sequences are fast, flurrysome and loud.

Is that all?

Well, there is a puppy.

Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2003
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Brave New World by any other name, with Christian Bale as a cop who sees the light.
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Jennie Kermode *****

Director: Kurt Wimmer

Writer: Kurt Wimmer

Starring: Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Angus MacFadyen, Sean Bean, Matthew Harbour, William Fichtner, Sean Pertwee, Maria Pia Calzon

Year: 2002

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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Brazil
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Underworld