Poster courtesy of Slashfilm.com
Neill Blomkamp’s sophomore feature length film, Elysium, is a thought-provoking, edgy sci-fi drama that deals out the heavy handed message of classism. District 9, Blomkamp’s first major motion picture, presented race inequality issues, in a very clever way, by placing the alien species as a minority in strife with humanity. It was brilliant, meanwhile Elysium reinforces the classism throughout the picture; that’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but it gets repetitive. Now apart from that, Elysium is another gem which should be in the ranks of other top-tier sci-fi films. Ranging from the great acting to the incredible production design, there are a lot of right things with this film that make it stand out from the other blockbuster fare that has been recently clogging our theaters.
As the story goes, in 2154, Earth is run down and over-populated. When not on Elysium, the story takes place in a barren, hollow, and dried-out Los Angeles, with a plethora of slums and sand. Gone is the familiar skyline, leaving Los Angeles looking more like a combination of Rio de Janeiro and the Mojave desert. As a consequence, the wealthy have moved to a space station called Elysium, a worry-free paradise with everything you could imagine when it comes to luxury. In fact, one of the perks of living on Elysium is that each home comes with a medical pod that cures ANY illness, like diseases, cancer, scars, or broken/fractured bones; this allows Elysium-ites to live much longer than on Earth.
Matt Damon plays his character Max with a lot of heart and struggle, while sporting an incredible six-pack. Max is a troubled soul, trying to make a living and moving as far away from his criminal past as possible. His job is manufacturing humanoid droids for policing duties on Earth and Elysium, and after a near-fatal accident, which only gives him 5 days to live, Max’s mission is to get healed on Elysium, no matter the cost. What ensues is a chase/”race against the clock” scenario where time is referenced at random moments, to help reinforce Max’s situation and increase the tension.
At this point in the story, we’re introduced to Jodie Foster’s character, Jessica Delacourt, who is the Secretary of Defense. Delacourt is a ruthless and cutthroat individual who will “protect” Elysium at all costs, even if that means killing innocent people in the process. She has a ruthless lowlife agent in her back pocket that helps with her dirty work, called Kruger, played by Sharlto Copley (who played Wikus in District 9). Kruger has allegiances only to money and his former soldiers, and does not care about anything else, including human life. Foster plays Delacourt with a cold and sneering confidence, whereas Copley plays Kruger with a bipolar ferocity that definitely dances on the certifiably crazy line. Another shining character, Frey Santiago, played by Alice Braga, is the love interest and motivation for Max as the story progresses. She helps bring a sense of humanity while everyone is getting lost in their own conquests, and she shines when on screen.
At the end of the first act, Max is on a path to get to Elysium, and Delacourt trying to stop Max via Kruger. This sets up the second and third acts to be a veritable non-stop ride that is full of impressive action sequences, dazzling special effects and a predictable, but meaningful climax that leaves the viewer satisfied. Lastly, the trailers for this film luckily did not spoil a lot of the movie, but be prepared for some intense fights that use some special cinematography and editing skills that left me surprised and impressed. This film has its naysayers, but I think Elysium is destined to be a classic and I can’t wait to see what Blomkamp does next.