I have no other way to say that it moved me and made me think about things I would rather not have to think about, ever. It was as thought provoking, as it was exciting, and emotionally moving. Not to mention it was visually stunning and thoroughly well made. Not without its faults, I have no trouble dismissing the shortcomings in favor of an overall excellent film.
Elysium was written and directed by Neil Blomkamp, who also wrote and directed District 9. There will be many comparisons of Elysium to District 9. I feel those comparisons are pointless. It’s the same writer and director, and has many of the same visual elements, and even some similar story elements. Naturally, they will look and feel very similar. I will say only this, if you liked District 9, you should like Elysium. One criticism could be that the two are too similar, the visual style and some story elements were not significantly different. There were fleeting moments where the script could have simply been a written draft of District 9. Such that it is a criticism, because it still worked, so I think he got away with it this time.
The film stars Matt Damon, and I will go to the grave before I admit to not enjoying his work. He has had a very solid career on screen, and Elysium is no exception. What more can you really say about a good actor that delivers a good performance, ‘Good job’? It doesn’t seem right, but he did a great job, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m sure at some point saying “good game” to Michael Jordan or Willie Mays just sounds condescending. Damon is as reliably enjoyable as always.
Jodie Foster plays Elysium Secretary of Defense Delacourt. I have mixed feelings about her performance. Something about it didn’t quite sit right with me. When an actor such as Jodie Foster turns in a sub-par performance it is usually due to poor direction, bad writing, or the role is outside their range, or all three. I don’t think Jodie Foster makes for a great villain, or specifically this villain. She played the role competently, like a seasoned veteran, but the character lacked life. I don’t think the fault is entirely her own. The part didn’t suit her, like an unflattering dress, something the director should have seen and addressed. However, maybe he did, and he wanted the character played very dry. Unfortunately, Jodie Foster is anything but dry.
Sharlto Copley plays Agent Kruger. You should remember Sharlto from District 9. He is an absolutely fantastic villain. He is loathsome, threatening, and completely relentless.
The year is 2154; the earth has become overpopulated and dangerously polluted. The planet is essentially a third world slum. The elite few have escaped the planet to live on a space station called Elysium. Elysium is a utopian society, thanks to advanced medical regeneration beds that heal injuries instantly, and cure disease so no one is sick, and life is good, unless you live on the earth. Elysium is a sovereign nation. Immigration is strictly controlled, and technology is hoarded. Naturally, this opens a black market to sneak onto the station, primarily to use the medical beds that everyone has in their homes. When Max (Matt Damon) receives a lethal dose of radiation in an industrial accident, he is forced to take extreme measures to get to Elysium before he dies. To make it, he agrees to take a job from Spider (Wagner Moura) head of smuggling ring, to steal the data encrypted in Elysium citizen John Carlyle ‘s (William Fichtner) head. When they get more than they bargain for in the data transfer Elysium Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) takes it personally and sends the ruthless Agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to recover what he took.
As I said before, the film itself has flaws, like most. It labors through pacing issues; although I believe those choices were deliberate. I think if the director adjusted the pacing to shorten the time between events, the film would lose some potency. However, this is going to make the movie difficult for some to watch. It may require some patience, but it will pay out. The film is also mildly predictable. It’s a common problem, but one we can forgive. Predictability in a movie can often just be due to a logically constructed story, with characters that have defined motivations. What I enjoyed was how the predictable elements balanced with the unpredictable elements.
All told, this film has a lot to say, a lot for us to think about, and a lot to show us. It’s served on a platter of action, emotion, and excitement. Taken as pure entertainment this film is thoroughly entertaining. Taken as social and political commentary, the film is highly effective at illustrating its point and arguing its case. Taken together I think it’s brilliant.
4.5 out of 5