Verge Reviews: Equals

Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart star in Drake Doremus’s futuristic drama that asks the question ‘what would you risk to feel alive?’

Doremus’s latest film takes place in a futuristic and bland world completely controlled by technology, in which emotion is completely removed from the human race. There are plenty of similar themes to George Orwell’s 1984 throughout. Conversations are boring and work related, stylish homes are completely bare with no art or decoration, and everyone is appearing to be working together to remain in a ‘supposed’ state of peace and tranquility. For Silas (Hoult) however, everything in his Orwellian world is turned upside down when he becomes infected by the new Switched On Syndrome, an illness that reawakens feelings and emotions and one that threatens to destroy their efficient but emotionless way of living after he becomes infatuated with his co-worker Nia (Stewart).

I always feel that any Sci-Fi film needs an exciting and exhilarating start to really grip the audience. It’s safe to say you do not get that with Equals. Instead, there’s a much more understated and dare I say it, slow beginning that actually suits the mood and feel of the film far better than any sort of ‘CODE RED!’ tannoy announcements or gun shots would. You follow Silas’s daily routine: from picking clothes from his all white wardrobe to his walk to work and it helps you immediately understand how regimented and bland this world is. The pace of the film is relatively slow throughout but picks up towards the last 20 minutes when the plot and in fact, the film, picks up its momentum.

The production value is excellent. The buildings are wonderfully realistic, workers reside in empty, open-plan stylish pods not too dissimilar to what you can probably already find in certain penthouses in London or New York. Their work offices are open, bright, stylish and driven by the worker’s huge tablet screens and again, I’m fairly sure if you were to be invited to Apple’s California HQ you could probably see where they got some of their inspiration from.

The film is set mainly in either the work buildings or Silas’s home, but that’s not to say the other sets are any less impressive. The worker’s walkway is vast and clean and the gardens in which Silas occupies after leaving his original post, provide the most colour in the film which gives the audience a welcome break from the colourless environment in which Nia and Silas live. To make a Sci-Fi drama on the relatively low budget of $2 million, you don’t really expect much in terms of sets or effects, but Doremus has managed to make an incredibly real futuristic world on a shoe-string budget.

The casting is good. Nicholas Hoult manages to carry the film and seems to finally be able to carry the weight of playing a leading man in one of his best performances. Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver are excellent and credible throughout with both understanding and perfecting their supporting roles which gave the film and characters an extra dimension. I was a little disappointed with Kristen Stewart. Don’t get me wrong, she was convincing, but she seemed to continue along a very similar character path as Bella Swan from Twilight when I felt there was room for her to branch out a little bit more. The chemistry between the two leads was very strong, which is obviously integral when making a romantic drama, but there were a few times when the dialogue and diction were rather difficult to understand which, when making a film in a relatively silent futuristic world was frustrating in some parts.

Overall, Equals is a well-executed modern day Sci-Fi romantic drama that packs a strong punch with an emotional ending. It isn’t a fast-paced flick but one that I would recommend.

Rating: 3/5

Equals is out now on digital HD, VOD and DVD