Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2002. Dimension Films, Blue Tulip Productions. Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer. Cinematography by Dion Beebe. Produced by Jan de Bont, Lucas Foster. Music by Klaus Badelt. Production Design by Wolf Kroeger. Costume Design by Joseph A. Porro. Film Editing by Tom Rolf, William Yeh.
Guns have been added to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in this unapologetic and fun ripoff of classic science-fiction stories. It takes place in a futuristic society where the horrors of war have been eradicated by forcing people into drugged stupors that disallow strong emotions such as hate, fear or anger. Unfortunately, along with those go happiness, joy and passion, and so the society must maintain control over extreme mirth and get rid of anything that encourages them: the Mona Lisa goes up in flames, Yeats is torn to pieces and Beethoven is banned. Anyone showing any sign of emotion is reported to the authorities and casually incinerated, and special forces policeman Christian Bale (called a ‘Grammaton Cleric’ in the inventive screenplay) seems to have no problem with any of this. Things start to change, however, when his best friend and partner (Sean Bean) gets moony over poetry and Bale himself starts to fondly reminisce on his late wife who was herself executed as a ‘Sense Offender’. When he stops taking the legally enforced medication that maintains his emotional passivity, Bale awakens to a whole new world of emotions that also put him into a whole world of danger: even his own son is an adversary once he starts to challenge society’s norms. His neo-fascist government seeking to get rid of mass murder by creating mass murder inspires a new outlook for Bale, who starts helping ‘resistance fighters’ in avoiding authorities. Further fueling him is a beautiful Sense Offender (Emily Watson) with ties to his past. Shades of Philip K. Dick and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (not to mention the newer and not so subtle influence of The Matrix) abound in this clever though not entirely unpredictable thriller, and Bale has equal parts brain and brawn to fill the complex lead role; he’s heroic when shooting up rooms full of gunmen (in some highly unbelievable action sequences) and moving when he is overcome by listening to Beethoven. Some of the lesser plot points (such as the underground resistance group that Bale is inspired to join) are underdeveloped, but the film’s look is catchy and its story’s conceit involving.