Dir: Neil Blomkamp
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura and William Fichnter
Synopsis: Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds
*Review Note:This is a non-spoiler review as always.”
In 2009 Neill Blomkamp gave to us one of the best sci-fi films in a while with District 9. It wasn’t just an action movie but so a social commentary that hit a chord with many people and earned itself a Best Picture Oscar nomination in the process. Now, Blomkamp has given us Elysium, an equally intelligent sci-fi film that replaces the issue of racism with poverty, immigration and overpopulation but also delivers great action sequences.
The world has been divided into two very distinct groups: the poor, who live on the diseased and overcrowded earth, and the wealthy, who have fled to a man-made space station called ‘Elysium’ in order to preserve their privileged way of life.
Through flashbacks we are introduced to Max (Damon), an orphan struggling to understand the world he’s apart of. Max’s ambition is to one day make it onto Elysium, but when we encounter him as an adult in the ruined Los Angeles, he couldn’t be further from fulfilling that dream
Serving parole and working on an assembly line building robots Max’s life is made more terrible when he suffers an accident at work which has devastating consequences on his health, making his need to reach Elysium all the more important. Meanwhile, Secretary Delacourt (Foster)– responsible for the defense of Elysium – is finding herself frustrated by the administration and wants to do something drastic to change it.
Max, with no way out of his situation, goes to his old boss Spider (Wagner Moura) with the help of his friend Julio (Diego Luna) to find away up to Elysium. This brings in the mechanic exoskeleton that we see Damon wear. The suit not only gives him the strength but serves another purpose to the story. When Spider sets a plan a motion Delacourt activates Kruger (Copley) ,a sleeper agent who is charged with the task of doing her bidding on earth.
It’s pretty cool concept once you see the whole movie. Blomkamp seems to be very good at this brand of high-concept sci-fi, the film’s narrative similar to District 9 in that it sets up a credible future-world, takes an ordinary man, places him in extraordinary circumstances, gives him near superhuman powers (alien DNA in D9, a mech-suit here) and follows his efforts to smash the system.
Aesthetically Elysium isn’t really that similar to District 9 (although you shouldn’t compare the two really). The visuals are more sophisticated this time around, the technological advancements made in the last four years make Elysium seem like what the movies makes it out to be, a wonderful place to live, if you can afford it of course.
Unlike District 9, the film is filled with a well known cast lead by Matt Damon. His Max character is a complicated character to the point where we know he’s an ex-convict trying to make an honest living but has to do things he knows are wrong in order to make it right. The flashback scenes and his relationship with Frey (Braga), a childhood friend, make him more sympathetic toward the viewer.
Foster’s Delacourt is interesting. She can be seen as the villain (although I didn’t see her as the real villain of the movie) but all her action are done to protect “the habitat” as she refers to it. The weird part though is Foster’s accent. I’m not one to complain about actors accents but it seemed like Foster was struggling a bit to keep it when she had long speeches. William Fichtner plays a businessman John Carlyle who shares most of his screen time with Foster and although a short role it’s important.
The standout however is Sharlto Copley as Kruger. He’s a man of few words at first but gradually starts to become a hassle to everybody involved. You can tell he had a lot of fun playing the role and he chews up the scenery when he’s on camera which I was okay with.
Ultimately Elysium is Neill Blomkamp’s film. The visuals are great to look at and even though it has a cool and pretty original story; the film does have some sci-fi elements we’ve seen before (still cool to watch though) but also goes into a straight action film.
All in all, Elysium has everything; sci-fi, action, some humor, a great story with cool characters and is damn entertaining.
4.5 out of 5