Equilibrium explores vaguely similar ideas to those dealt with in The Matrix, but, in my opinion, it is not just a copycat film made to cash in on the success of The Matrix. For such a low budget film what has been achieved is very impressive.
It takes some fairly standard SF ideas: dystopian, post-apocalyptic future; oppressive omnipresent State machine; a group of rebels fighting for change and puts a different slant on them.
Equilibrium examines the idea of the State forcing people to taking mood-suppressing medication to prevent negative, destructive emotional consequences such as War. This is supposedly a sincere attempt to protect Society from further collapse. However, the State's fear of strong emotion means it also suppresses positive, creative emotions like Love and it kills those who refuse to subscribe to its ideology. In the film the State's argument is that Liberty for citizens breeds chaos and danger: therefore sacrificing individual freedom will protect Society as a whole.
The film's main character John Preston undergoes a conversion from perfect State enforcer without a conscience to passionate Rebel quite simply because he accidentally misses a dose of the universally dispensed mood suppressant "Prosium". He begins to feel emotions for the first time in his life. His consequent emotional confusion leads him to make a snap decision to save the lives of Rebels he was sent to kill. His ultimate role in the film is to turn the skills he was taught to kill Rebels against the State that created him.
Preston has to come to terms with the consequences of his past actions as a tool of State oppression. His naivete and lack of experience in dealing with his newfound guilt and emotions causes complications that lead to his potential destruction and that of the rebellion.
Christian Bale gives a moving and credible performance in the role of John Preston. The range of physical and emotional talents he displays in this film is impressive. His portrayal of a man dealing with feelings for the first time in his life is sensitively handled and is far from stereotypical. In fact the entire cast of this film give strong performances.