'Equals' is in Equal Parts Entertaining and Unoriginal

Ensign Lestat's Film Log, 27.08.2016

'Equals' introduces us to a world where emotions are illegal, as is human contact. People live separate lives, interacting only during work. The gravest danger they all face is the onset of SOS - Switched On Syndrome, a deadly disease which has no cure.

We follow Silas (Nicholas Hoult) in his daily routine till one day he can't seem to take his eyes off teammate Nia (Kristen Stewart). After getting a bump on the head while running away from a nightmare, Silas gets himself checked out - he has Stage 1 SOS. But the doctor prescribes him medicine with the promise that he can continue living a normal life.

But things don't go to plan; they never do in these scenarios. Silas figures out Nia's secret and they embark on a clandestine relationship that may lead to their undoing.

I enjoyed the film with its stark architecture and visuals, the plaintive looks of the main characters, the subtle nods to technological developments and the general world of the film. It was better than I expected and it's easy to get engrossed in.

There isn't much that is original about it though. It is a retread of similar literary and cinematic tales, including '1984'. 'A Handmaid's Tale', 'Equilibrium' and even 'THX 1138'. That's just naming a few. Hollywood and fiction are obsessed with the idea that our natural-born emotions will be forcibly taken away from us at some point, and that the breakdown of any society borne from that will be because nature will overcome nurture and we will all start feeling again. I think freedom of thought more than freedom of emotion is what we will end up sacrificing, but that's not quite as romantic is it?

I did like the way SOS was portrayed as a disease and how the characters react to it and others who have it. It was the one exceptional feature in an otherwise dour production. I feel like had that been the main point of the story we would have had a much stronger film. We can imagine the conversations arising between people living openly with it and those living with it in the shadows. And later, if and when a cure is found, debates burgeoning throughout society over the rights of people to embrace it, to inhibit it or to cure it. Sounds like a far more fascinating film. Only if...

The acting is subtle as the script is undemanding. There are moments where the two leads get to be emotionally open and they do a good job. I can't say sparks flew between Hoult and Stewart, however. We were already aware that these characters were to be together, so we weren't rooting for or against them.

I'm disturbed that the main cast of characters wasn't a greater mix of ethnicities. I will always bring that up, because if you can't throw in some flavour in a futuristic sci-fi film, then you're doing it wrong. We get non-speaking or non-significant recurring POC characters, but none of the main players. Why?

I felt the climax was predictable, but good. It built up to a Romeo and Juliet ending, before segueing into something sadder. It does make one wonder what the characters are going to do and how they will cope, but it's a fittingly melancholic ending to an overwhelmingly melancholic film.

While 'Equals' is a wonderful, accomplished feature, it is hardly memorable. It fits itself perfectly into the many dystopian worlds we've entered before without being outstanding. 

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