Decay, drudgery, decadence, defiance and all themes director Neil Blomkamp exports from his terrific debut movie, ‘District 9’ and places them front and centre in his sophomore effort, ‘Elysium’ making it a ham-fisted, even if visually impressive, array of dizzying action sequences interspaced with enough exposition to choke a political debate.
The year is 2154, and 99% of the earth’s population lives in a slums, standing where once was a concrete jungle overrun with corporate greed. The rich 1% lives off world on an orbiting space station called Elysium with possible comforts and most importantly unlimited health care. Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-convict trying to lead a straight life in a desolate Los Angeles, battling poverty, governmental apathy and a childhood desire to live on Elysium that he regards as his birthright. When an accident at his workplace leaves him with only five days to live, he teams up with an eccentric militant, Spider (Wagner Moura), to breach Elysium’s walls and avail the healthcare options. In order to do so, he undergoes a painful operation that implants him with an exoskeleton that can help him override Elysium’s security protocols and battle it’s various military elements. However when Elysian Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) learns of Max’s designs she dispatches the psychotic Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to bring him down. Added to the mix is Max’s childhood sweetheart, Frey (Alice Braga), who’s now a single mother with a young daughter dying of cancer and hopes Max can save her daughter too.
The movie’s vistas are dazzling landscapes littered with urban decay that convey beautifully the desperation of the populace that inhabits them. On the other hand Elysium is gorgeous to behold and you can truly gauge the indifference of the populace towards the less fortunate ones on earth. In a particularly chilling scene early on in the movie, a group of earth dwellers attempts to smuggle themselves on to the space station, only to be blown to smithereens and the rest captured but not before one of them manages to avail of the elusive healthcare. The scenes of the people inside the ships as they approach Elysium, conveying fear and excitement at the same time are heartbreaking.
The movie’s main problem stems from the fact that it gets bogged down by the plentiful action which I think due to commercial constraints; the director felt the need to pump the movie full with. Make no mistake, they are technically well constructed but nothing we haven’t seen before.
Most of the cast is adequate but for me the real standouts were Sharlto Copley as the murderous Kruger and Brazilian actor Wagner Moura as Spider. Copley in particular brings such ferocity to his role that it’s difficult not to take your eyes off the screen every time he crops up.
Elysium is a decent movie with some dazzling visuals, exciting action sequences and some good acting but it’s too ham-fisted in its themes and messages which blunts it’s political stand. It’s no ‘District 9’ but it’s adequately entertaining.view less