Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley
Line from this film: "Earth's wealthiest inhabitants fled the planet to preserve their way of life"
Trivia: Wagner Moura contracted pneumonia while filming so the production was stopped for a few days to allow him to recover
Elysium, a 2013 sci-fi / action movie directed by Neill Blomkamp, creates a futuristic world that, despite being positively amazing, never engaged me as it should have. As a result, the film's story, involving a class struggle of epic proportions, was rendered almost entirely ineffective.
The year is 2154. Due to pollution and overcrowding, the earth has become an inhospitable place, and the millions still residing there live in abject poverty, with little or no access to health care. Things are much different, however, on Elysium, a terraformed space station that orbits the earth, which houses only the wealthiest members of society. Thanks to its clean air and advanced medical facilities (including “Med Bays”, which can cure any and all illnesses), conditions on the station have been idyllic for some time, a way of life that Elysium’s Secretary of Defense, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), protects with every fiber of her being, ensuring that any “non-citizens” (i.e. – those living on the planet’s surface) attempting to board Elysium are dealt with in as severe a manner as possible.
Max De Costa (Matt Damon), a former convict living in the ruins of Los Angeles, works on an assembly line for the Armadyne Corp., the company that initially designed Elysium and now provides it with robots that both serve and protect. One day, while on the job, Max is accidentally exposed to lethal doses of radiation, and is told that he has only 5 days left to live. With nowhere else to turn, Max asks his neighbor and good buddy Julio (Diego Luna) to set up a meeting with Spider (Wager Moura), a smuggler who, for years, has been trying to sneak the sick and dying into Elysium so that they can receive some much-needed medical care. Realizing that Elysium is his only hope for survival, Max agrees to help Spider kidnap John Carlyle (William Fichtner), the CEO of Armadyne, so that they can steal his identity and gain access to the station. What they don’t know is that Carlyle is assisting Secretary Delacourt in her bid to take control of Elysium, which she feels is being weakened by bleeding heart bureaucrats like the facility’s president, Patel (Faran Tahir). In an attempt to prevent Spider and Max from completing their mission, Delacourt sends Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a former military man now acting as one of her agents on earth, to stop them. But with nothing to lose, Max has no intention of letting anyone stand in his way, and is determined to reach Elysium… or die trying.
Elysium boasts some great action scenes (the kidnapping of John Carlyle, as well as the ensuing firefight, is a thrill-a-minute), and many of the film’s earth-bound characters are fleshed out wonderfully. Along with Max and Spider, we’re introduced to Frey (Alice Braga), a childhood friend of Max’s whose young daughter Matilda (Emma Tremblay) has terminal leukemia (meaning she would also benefit from a trip to Elysium). Most interesting of all, though, is the mercenary Kruger, expertly portrayed by Sharlto Copley (because he works directly for Secretary Delacourt, he has access to high-tech weaponry, making him a total bad-ass and a formidable adversary for Max). In addition to the above, the special effects in Elysium are beyond impressive, including the robotic police force that maintains order on the planet’s surface (Max has a run-in with two robot cops while on his way to work one morning). All of these elements come together to make the sequences set on earth as dramatic as they are electrifying.
Where the movie comes up short is in its depiction of Elysium. Unlike their earthbound counterparts, we learn very little about the people of Elysium with the exception of Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster is a great actress who, unfortunately, isn’t given much to work with here). Along with the privileged few who inhabit it, the film spends no time exploring the world of Elysium itself; ignoring the wonders of this remarkable achievement to instead have us sit in on council meetings (where, more often than not, Delacourt is forced to answer for her actions). In the end, I wanted to see more of Elysium than just board meetings and control rooms, and thanks to this lackluster presentation, the film’s tale of class warfare fizzles out before it has a chance to pick up steam.
If you’re in the mood for an effects-heavy action flick, then look no further than Elysium. Just don’t expect it to deliver anything more than that.