For those that haven't read the CHUD review, I'll provide a brief summary here (and nothing more than you'd get from seeing the trailer). In the future, humanity has suffered through a third World War and elected to prevent a fourth by removing the supposed root cause: emotion. Every citizen of the thoroughly totalitarian Libria doses themselves with mood-damping drugs on a regular basis, the same times every day (like some demented version of Muslim prayers to Mecca, the whole city stops to shoot up at the same time). Feeling and emotion, along with expressions of the same (i.e., art) are strictly forbidden and punishable by death. Christian Bale plays a member of Libria's elite police force, a "Cleric." Through some predictable plot twists (Oh my, isn't Beethoven's Ninth beautiful?), Bale's character rebels against the system and proceeds to kick ass all the way to the top.
In a world of Dick Cheney governing from an "undisclosed location," of government transparently marketing to the people (like the quote from a White House official on why they didn't announce their intentions towards Iraq in August: "From a marketing stand-point, you don't introduce a new product in August"), of a president who's "working vacations" and rhetorical ineptitude are a nervous joke, the government of Libria just isn't that unsettling. Maybe I'm becoming too cynically immured to this kind of thing but I found myself tripping over the apparent incompetence of Libria's supposedly all-powerful Council. The best dystopian science-fiction is inherently satiric - it takes an existing trend and magnifies it, reductio ad absurdam. But Equilibrium merely gloms together the dystopic conceits of earlier work and doesn't go any farther.
For instance, consider the mood-damping drug, Prozium. With a name like that, you're clearly meant to compare it to modern mood-altering drugs like Prozac and others of that ilk, such as Zoloft, and Wellbutrin. Aside from the dubious gun-shaped dispenser and bullet-shaped doses, nothing about Prozium is especially sinister. First off, an actual government-sponsored drug program wouldn't come in a package that makes the user look like he or she is shooting him or herself with a gun - that kind of gross symbolism would be arguably necessary in a film, except that the film goes to such great pains to explain what the drug is and what it does. Prozium doesn't even appear to be addictive in any way - if you don't take it, you might get riddled with bullets by an ass-kicking Cleric in a sharp-looking black uniform, but you won't get the shakes. Actual mood-altering drugs like Prozac and its brethren are addictive, though the doctor describing the effects is more likely to refer to "side effects" than "withdrawal-induced nausea and headaches."
Similarly, aside from references to children as snitches on their parents (one of many straight cribs from 1984), there's nothing that really brings out the all-knowing power of a modern surveillance system in the hands of a government willing to use it. An occasional shot of a camera doesn't show that the government is doing anything with the information in hand. In fact, the underground resistance seems to have more surveillance intel going on than Libria itself.
Even the semi-central conceit of the resistance being organized at least partially around art appreciation is only inconsistently followed. The Clerics unpredictably burn contraband art on the spot with big honking flame-throwers and seize it as evidence. Which will happen to any given piece of illegal art seems to have more to do with plot device constructs (Oh, the emotionless Cleric decided to Keep Art) than with any explicable policy.
It all leads up to a rather predictable and Hollywood ending. It's fundamentally an action picture, and so you know the Good Guys have to win, especially with a charismatic leading man like Christian Bale. Such a One Hero Against the World works tolerably well in Star Wars, which is just mythology with lasers. And it works tolerably well in The Matrix, where there's so much religious imagery and symbolism running around that it might as well be myth, too. In Equilibrium, which is at least making a pretense at realism (down to a specious expository segment on "gun-kata", a weak attempt at explaining how Clerics kick such horrendous ass without resorting to super-human powers), it just doesn't fly. One lone rebel doesn't take down a huge totalitarian bureaucracy - assassinating the chief executive (even assuming he isn't a mindless chimp) doesn't destroy a modern business, much less a modern government.
It isn't completely without merit. The action scenes, if nothing else, are worthy of the best John Woo. It ups the bar for what you can do in a given budget and has some stuff that deserves to be as influential as the over-done Bullet Time(TM) effect (which very nearly became an instant cliché). And there's the occasional gem of a performance - unsurprisingly, Sean Bean turns in a surprisingly good turn, and Christian Bale is similarly good as an only marginally mentally stable individual (something he does well). They're not all good, though, with many of the theoretically Prozium-damped actors turning in inexplicably histrionic performances (Taye Diggs has a lot of promise in this kind of movie, but you just don't believe that he's doping himself every day with emotion-killing drugs).
In short, if you're looking for the next Brazil, this isn't it. If you're looking for The Matrix on the budget of The Blair Witch Project, you're closer.