Cinema Scoop  

Earth's future looks bleak in 'Elysium'

Four years ago, director Neill Blomkamp burst on the scene with a groundbreaking new science fiction film called District 9. It had a very unique look and was filled with interesting ideas that alluded to certain sociological and political issues, namely the apartheid movement in his native South Africa. Even though the allegory was present, he never beat you over the head with the message. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for his latest film, Elysium. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this is in any way a bad film - it's not. Elysium is a pretty spectacular visual wonder at times and a high-octane action film that zips along fairly quickly. I really enjoyed it and found it to be quite an entertaining piece of science fiction storytelling. I was, however, a tad bit disappointed that Blomkamp chose to eschew any semblance of subtlety whatsoever in regards to his message about America's current issues with immigration and the divide between the haves and the have-nots. He didn't need to make it so blatantly obvious throughout the whole picture. 

The film is set in the year 2154, and Earth has become an overcrowded, polluted, disease ridden dump of a world. The ultra wealthy have fled the planet to go live on an orbiting space station, known as Elysium, where they can essentially live a utopian lifestyle complete with medical devices that can detect any ailment they may have and cure them instantly so that no one ever gets sick or hurt. 

We are introduced to Max (Matt Damon), a former car thief and parolee who is forced to work in a factory that produces robots which are used to police the poor people of Earth and keep order. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Max was an orphan raised by Mexican nuns, who taught him to respect the world he lives on even though all he dreams of is to go to Elysium. In the orphanage, he grows up best friends with a girl named Frey, who he promises to take to Elysium one day. As luck should have it, Max is reunited with Frey (Alice Braga), who has now become a nurse, when Max breaks his arm in a scuffle with police robots and he has to go to the hospital.

Up on Elysium, we meet Defense Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster), a no-nonsense, unfeeling woman in charge of security. She has absolutely no qualms about shooting down shuttles full of people who are attempting to make a run for Elysium's border in order to gain access to some medical attention. She basically serves as the border patrol trying to keep the illegal immigrants from hopping the fence. Like I said, nothing subtle about this movie. She decides to stage a coup one day in order to take over Elysium and to do this she enlists the aid of one of its wealthiest citizens, John Carlyle (William Fichtner), who happens to be the head of the company that Max works for.

When a workplace accident leaves Max exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and he is given only five days to live, he desperately needs to get to Elysium in order to survive. He gets help from two old criminal buddies, Spider (Wagner Moura) and Julio (Diego Luna), who concoct a plan to kidnap an Elysium citizen and somehow download that individual's DNA to gain access to the space station. Their target; John Carlyle. Long story short, things don't quite go as planned and Max ends up becoming a primary target for Sec. Delacourt. Delacourt enlists the aid of a sleeper agent named Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to kill Max and anyone he is associated with. Copley's Kruger is one of the highlights of the film. He's a particularly nasty and demented individual who will stop at nothing to get his target. With his heavy South African accent he's a total bad ass as he wields a samurai sword with psychotic rage. Copley dives headfirst into this villainous role and makes it a ton of fun to watch.

As far as action pictures go, Elysium definitely delivers the goods. It's briskly paced and offers plenty of shootouts and explosions as well as some impressive set pieces that showcase Blomkamp's eye for visual panache. It will remind many of the style he used in District 9 with muted colours and an almost gritty, grimy look. The performances are pretty solid for the most part. Matt Damon is reliable as usual and he creates a hero that we sympathize with and root for even if he isn't always the most endearing fellow. At one point he gets outfitted with a special mechanized suit that gives him extra strength and he becomes a sort of Terminator-like individual which is pretty cool. If I had a major gripe with anyone though, it would be with Jodie Foster. She speaks with what I gather is supposed to be a French accent, but she is terribly inconsistent with it and at times I think she even loses it. Given her stellar career filled with amazing performances, I was a bit letdown that she just appeared to be stoically going through the motions here playing an emotionless woman. Not her best work.

So basically the bottom line with Elysium is, while it may be a step back from the brilliance of District 9, it nevertheless still offers up a hard hitting, violent piece of science fiction storytelling, albeit one that is somewhat heavy-handed in its approach. I would still recommend this film highly to anyone that wants a good thrill ride on the big screen. Book your trip to Elysium!

I give Elysium an 8 out of 10.

More Cinema Scoop articles

About the Author

Just to give you a little background on my qualifications, I've been a film buff my whole life and I enjoy all different genres.

I especially have a passion for classic cinema.

I spent most of the past 17 years working for Rogers Video, so not only have I seen an immense amount of movies, but I've recommended many films to people over the years.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories