By Garth Franklin

Slickly made but somewhat derivative, "Equilibrium" many assume will be some Phillip K. Dick adaptation ala "Minority Report" or "Impostor" and thankfully its more like the former in terms of quality.

Made on a shoestring budget, Director Kurt Wimmer has managed to come up with a quite impressive looking yet personal sci-fi tale of a totalitarian society where emotion is illegal and we follow the 'top gun' enforcer of this rule as he of course begins to feel and goes out to challenge the order and its leader 'Father'.

Predictable? Sure, but "Equilibrium" manages to show off some amazingly choreographed action that easily stands up and surpasses that done in films with ten times its budget, yet adds a more personal and intellectual story than many films of the genre.

The project is carried entirely on Bale's shoulders as practically every scene involves him either by himself or dominanting the proceedings. The scary thing is he pulls it off - here's a character whose cold, unemotional and tough as ice yet by the end you feel for him.

It's a testament that in a 100 minute film with basically no humour, minimalist sets and the odd bit of explosive eye candy that your attention will be held quite rapt by what unfolds onscreen. Sean Bean makes a likable if short appearance, and Watson certainly has her moments, but Diggs and Fichtner on the other hand are given little to do with very small and one-dimensional parts and the 'villain' of the piece is a bit of a letdown.

Action wise its both inventive and ordinary at times. Quite often you'll see either moves or things done to people and animals that you wouldn't expect to see either at all or as graphically as its shown here. Even a simple lighting trick helps make a raid scene towards the start that much more effective whilst the use of martial arts is excellent thanks to its non reliance on wires and fluid incorporation of weapons into its moves.

On the flipside, like in most American films gunfire/gunplay can become quite boring if its used too often on its own and whilst it certainly is overdone here there are all sorts of other elements from swordplay to cool reloading mechanism to keep things interesting for at least half the time. Even the big gunfight standoff towards the end between two characters, though looking a little ridiculous, is quite cool.

This isn't as original as it would like to be though, borrowing MAJOR elements from some of the greatest sci-fi novels ever made including Ray Bradbury's "Farenheit 451" (burning of artwork/books/etc.) and George Orwell's "1984" (society controlled by Big Brother) to designs from the very similar low-budget 1997 sci-fi flick "Gattaca" (which had quite frankly a more interesting story).

That is unfortunately what keeps it from being truly memorable, but given the right amount of money and a fresher story I wouldn't be surprised if Wimmer becomes one of the next great action directors out there - this first effort is better than many's fifth or sixth.

When major money is spent on crap like "Resident Evil" and mediocre fun like "Blade 2", it sucks that projects like this which have real potential are being buried by its distributor. Expect this baby to be a big sci-fi cult hit along "Pitch Black" lines, and while it may be a little too trigger happy it also will get you in that most underused of organs in movies today - the brain. Certainly one of the best efforts in this genre this year.