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Equals movie REVIEW: A perfectly crafted dystopic drama with nothing new to say

by Jacob Kleinman | May 7, 2016May 7, 2016 3:00 pm PDT

When I hear the words “dystopic future” my eyes light up and my mind starts to race. For a few teenage years,  it was the only genre I was even remotely interested in, and it’s still one of my favorite topics more than a decade later. So Equals should be right up my alley and, for the most part, it is. I really enjoyed this movie. It’s fun, fascinating and beautiful, but doesn’t leave much for you to chew on after the credits roll.

Equals stars Kirstin Stewart and Nicholas Hoult, who play two members of a future society where emotions are illegal and all-but eradicated through science. Following an unexplained “Great War,” a small group called The Collective has emerged. For the most part, this imagined world is a generic mashup of sci-fi classics like The GiverBrave New World and THX 1138, where humanity is placated by screens and an obsession with space travel.

Space exploration as a distraction from societal problems is one of the few interesting ideas presented in Equals. We tend to believe that outer space is humanity’s future and possibly the key to understanding the universe, but is it worth the cost or should we be more focused on issues here on Earth? I’m not sure that’s a question this movie intentionally asks, but it’s still one worth considering.

The biggest threat to The Collective is Switched-On-Syndrome (SOS). Essentially, the emotion-removing treatment that all fetuses receive before birth wears off over time in rare cases and scientists are still working on a cure. Predictably, our two main characters both come down with SOS before eventually finding each other and a little happiness in an unemotional world.

Things start to fall apart as the movie progresses. We meet a small group of SOS survivors, including the excellent Guy Pearce, who fall somewhere between secret support group and rebel force. The pace picks up near the end, but there’s no action-packed climax. I wanted to see the brutally repressive violent side of The Collective but, if it exists, we never get to experience it. Instead, we get a clever Shakespearean twist and an ending that’s up for interpretation.

I also wish we got to actually visit “The Peninsula,” the one other piece of remaining habitable land where tribes of primitive humans may or may not live. To be fair, this is an indie film and financial limits are likely what kept the story rooted in The Collective’s beautiful and methodically constructed city. Maybe we’ll get a sequel with a bigger budget, but considering the movie’s limited release and its sought-after cast, that seems unlikely.

Equals will be available through DirectTV Cinema beginning on May 26, so anyone with DirectTV can watch it at home. It’s also set to get a limited theatrical release on July 15. Thanks to AT&T for inviting us to the screening.


Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...

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