Following a devastating war that has destroyed most of the Earth’s habitable surface, one of two remaining populations now lives in a sterile world, having completely suppressed and eradicated their emotions. However, sometimes the methods used to rid them of their primitive urges don’t work, and people end up with ‘Switched On Syndrome’, where their emotions begin to rise.
Silas (Nicholas Hoult) discovers that he is ‘infected’, and that he will eventually reach Stage 3, where he’ll be carted off and given a ‘death scenario’. He starts to fall for co-worker Nia (Kristen Stewart), who he discovers also has the ‘disease’ but is hiding it. They know that if their relationship is discovered there will be serious repercussions, but they cannot help but fall deeper in love.
It’s a potentially interesting premise, but Equals doesn’t live up to its potential. Too much of it doesn’t make sense, and there are far too many questions left unanswered. It’s particularly difficult not to notice these issues due to the fact that Equals moves so slowly. With its visually arresting imagery and quiet demeanour, it’s rather like a sci-fi short film that’s been stretched out over 100 minutes. However, it only has enough plot for about half an hour, and 90% of that plot is extremely predictable.
The whole thing feels like it needed to be developed more. There’s too little feel for what it’s like to live with no emotion, and the potentially fascinating idea of someone coming to have them for the first time isn’t handled in a genuine or logical way. I did wonder whether the film is striving towards a metaphor for gay people having to hide sexuality, particularly with an underground group of people with emotions that Silas discovers, but it never feels like it’s taken anywhere or that it’s gotten to grips with what it’s talking about. Like much of the rest of the movie, it ends up a hint towards something it doesn’t know what to do with.
Ultimately it’s a movie where everyone involved knows they’ve got a good idea, and they’ve spent an awful lot of time making that idea look good (on what was probably a fairly small budget). Sadly though, they’ve spent far less time ensuring the events and emotions are coherent and engaging. Hopefully one day someone can give it another go around with a little more thought, as there is plenty of potential. They can even bring Nicholas Hoult along, as he’s very good as Silas, but he’s generally better than everything that’s going on around him.
Overall Verdict: A great idea is turned into a rather dull slice of sci-fi, which stretches a small amount of predictable plot far past breaking point.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac