Elysium (2013)

Elysium (2013)

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It was at that point that Matt Damon realised his drink had been spiked.
It was at that point that Matt Damon realised his drink had been spiked.

Twitter Plot Summary: The rich live in luxury on Elysium, in Earth orbit. Everybody else lives on Earth. Matt Damon is poisoned and must reach Elysium to survive.

Genre: Action/Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller

Director: Neil Blomkamp

Key Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Faran Tahir

Five Point Summary:

1. Matt Damon sans hair, and that is a filthy city. Will wonders never cease.
2. Worst health and safety plans ever.
3. That
s a blatant rip-off from Robocop. They can rebuild him, hell just look really cheap.
4. Sharlto Copley getting to be bad-ass. Great stuff.
5. Slightly generic finale. Hmm.

Neil Blomkamp burst onto the cinematic landscape with District 9, a taut commentary on racism, co-existence of different races, and the vagaries of human nature, with prawn-like alien creatures in place of black/white tensions. For this similarly themed sci-fi adventure, the rich have vacated Earth and now live on a luxurious space station in Earth orbit, called Elysium. Matt Damon plays Max, a guy who has always dreamed of living on Elysium yet works in a factory down in the sweaty, grimy world of  22nd century Los Angeles. An accident at work results in him receiving a lethal dose of radiation poisoning and his only hope of surviving is to reach Elysium because they have fancy-pants recovery pods that cures all illness that aren’t of course, available to the residents of Earth. The healthcare available on Elysium could easily be used to treat everybody on Earth but, as is often the case, the rich keep it all to themselves. So, with the film’s politics clearly set out, we dive into Max’s attempts at saving his own life.

Of the cast, Matt Damon is reliable yet does nothing spectacular. The main point of interest as far as his character goes is the fact he’s got no hair and is covered in tattoos, a far cry from his usual role. Saying he’s reliable but not spectacular could make it seem that I wasn’t impressed by his performance – far from it. He demonstrates quite the range of emotions throughout the course of the film, but he’s the reliable centre to the film, allowing his fellow cast members to go a little more OTT in terms of playing their character. His interactions with Alice Braga, playing former love interest Frey, are especially deep, and we learn just enough about their previous relationship without going into too much detail. Plus one for the script.

Sharlto Copley is the guy who gets to have the most fun. As the unhinged bounty hunter Kruger he has no boundaries and does as he pleases. I’m not sure what it is about him that works, perhaps it’s the slightly unusual South African accent he chose to use, or maybe it’s just the fact he has a great big bushy beard. Whatever the reasons, Kruger is perhaps my favourite character from all of the films released so far this year, and potentially one of my all time favourite movie villains.

Somebody was messing with Kruger's shopping trolley full of tat. He did not like this.
Somebody was messing with Kruger’s shopping trolley full of tat. He did not like this.

Jodie Foster is fine as the devious Delacourt, who maintains Elysium’s security but has intentions to go above and beyond this position. Whilst the performance is great, it looks like she was re-dubbed in post production, and for no real apparent reason either. Maybe the initial accent she chose was either unclear or went in a direction that didn’t work in the edit. Ultimately she has a slightly clipped generic English accent. That’s fine, but after a few lines of dialogue you can’t un-see the dubbing. It’s a shame because it took me out of the film slightly, but thankfully I was able to ignore it and get back into it with minimal damage.

There are few holes that need explaining – if Elysium is such a paradise, why have they not got better defences? And I’m sure there are still some nice places left on Earth – I know for narrative purposes it’s easier to focus on the two extremes of the sanitised Elysium and the cesspit that is Los Angeles in 2154, however some evidence that the whole planet hasn’t fallen into a similar state would have added depth to the world portrayed in the film. It’s also a pity that the final third does lapse slightly into some generic story areas as up until that point I’d been completely engaged in the “one man fighting the system” story at play. In hindsight it’s difficult to suggest where else the story could go, so I’ll let that point lie. It’s not a deal breaker and certainly doesn’t ruin the first two thirds like some final acts have been known to do.

The politics may be a little on the nose, but it’s an accomplished follow-up to District 9 and Blomkamp has made it clear that he’s not a one trick pony. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. As long as it involves a hefty dose of Sharlto Copley (rather than radiation poisoning) then it should be a winner.

Favourite scene: *Spoilers* Kruger’s face is blown away by a grenade, and is regenerated when they reach Elysium.

Quote: “It’s just a flesh wound!”

Silly Moment: The Robocop homage where Matt Damon is put into the exo-suit, montage style.

Score: 4/5

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