Film Review: Elysium

Friday 3 January 2014 by

Elysium, Film, Sci-fi, Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Neill Blomkamp

Welcome to sci-fi flick Elysium, from the director of District 9, Neill Blompkamp.

It’s 2154. In a futuristic world where the rich live off-world in a clean, disease-free paradise (Elysium) whilst the poor are left on a polluted, dangerous and violent Earth. Anyone who tries to reach Elysium without permission are shot down.

Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-convict who is trying to remain on the straight and narrow, working as a mechanic in a half-destroyed Los Angeles. But things never go well for the people on Earth, and Max finds himself under the heavy hand of the police, and the victim of a massive radiation dose, giving him just 5 days to live. In a desperate attempt to save himself, he bargains with a smuggler to get on to Elysium to heal his radiation.

In terms of world-building, this is cleverly done. I’m never a fan of films starting with explanations, and this does have a brief moment, but it quickly steps in to the action, with Damon as an engaging and magnetic protagonist. They are quick to run sub-stories around it, introducing ice-cold Delacourt (Jodie Foster), Kruger (Sharlto Copley, District 9), and Frey (Alice Braga, I Am Legend).

Max, wired up with an “exo-skeleton” to give him strength, is tasked with stealing the information from an Elysium citizen’s brain (all citizens are wired up with an electronic data device) to earn his passage. But it quickly goes wrong, when they target John Carlyle (William Fichtner), who has the code to reset Elysium’s computer and instruct it with new data.

Max finds himself pursued by Kruger and Delacourt in an effort to get the information (now downloaded in to his brain) and seeks the help of his childhood friend (the girl he loves, predictably), Frey. But Frey has problems of her own – her daughter Matilda (Emma Tremblay) is dying of leukemia, and she needs to get to Elysuim just as much as Max.

Are you still with me?

Suffice to say, they all get to Elysium, there’s a big showdown between Max and Kruger, and Max (in a slightly Blood Diamond-esque manner) ends up saving Matilda. There’s a bit of a Happily Ever After vibe to this whole thing, which I tend to struggle with.

This is a great film visually. Some of the effects feel very game-like, especially in the fight scenes. The dialogue leaves something to be desired (although Foster and Copley’s deliveries are done with style) and the story itself feels shaky – entertaining if not convincing. The premise of it is good as well – the idea that the rich withhold healthcare and supplies to control the poor. But I’m not sure that the execution was that effective – Delacourt lacked motive, and there seemed to be little control enforcement apart from some douchey robots and no proper healthcare.

Overall, if you like a sci-fi action, you’ll enjoy it while it lasts, but it’s not a hugely impressive film other than that. Matt Damon is a convincing lead (as ever), and Sharlto Copley is a suitably impressive baddie (his performances always electrify). I don’t think I wasted my hours on the film (like some others I’ve seen recently), but I wouldn’t go rushing out to get it on DVD.

To sum up: meh.

2 Houses

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