Elysium

Elysium

***

Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

It is 2154 AD, the one per cent live in a huge orbiting space station, Elysium, where life is air-conditioned, robot serviced and illness free. The 99 per cent lead cramped, grubby, police-controlled lives on earth, building gizmos for the elite.

Meet Max (Matt Damon), production line worker with a mild criminal past, whose dreary life perks a little when childhood sweet heart, Frey (Alice Braga) reappears in it. Then disaster, an industrial accident gives Max five days to live. Getting to Elysium is his only hope of survival.

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It's DoA meets The Wizard Of Oz with Matt Damon as an irradiated Dorothy.

The Wicked Witch of the West of the piece is Delacourt (Jodie Foster), Elysium’s defense secretary, whose idea of a good defense, is a good attack, she is backed up by her pet flying monkey, er, mercenary, Kruger (Sharlto Copley) and his minions. Foster brings a nice disdainful elegance to the role counterpointed by Copley’s splendidly unhinged berserker, who is assigned to derail Max’s gambit.

Playing for the home team are Max’s friend, Julio (Diego Luna) and Spider (Wagner Moura), as the techno nerd character indispensible to this type of film, whose skill can quickly overcome a plot hole. Freya and her daughter, Matilda (Emma Tremblay) also get caught up in the hero's plight as Matilda needs fixing too.

In the plus column, the film has fantastic special effects, District 9 proved Blomkamp has a knack of integrating photo-real special effects into his narrative without the audience feeling it is seeing a special effect. Compare Elysium’s fantastic robots with those that appear in the Star Wars prequels for a lesson in realism. Likewise, the spaceships and other hardware have the mass and honesty to make you think Blomkamp filmed it live.

In the minus column, plot points are repeated two or three times to make sure the audience has understood, I’m surprised little arrows don’t appear on screen to further indicate something important is afoot. This is a film in need of more Dick. Philip K Dick, that is, whose sci-fi plots have more depth to them. Elysium’s elaborate set-up seems merely to give an unusual background for a rather exciting action sequence.

Further, the finale smacks of the scriptwriter suddenly realising he has 15 minutes to wrap everything up, sparking a panic which makes what should be an emotional climax feel a bit arbitrary. This author is hoping that this means there will be a better paced extended version pending.

Early reviews have tagged the film with a political agenda, which both director and star have hastily denied, but the film’s immigration stance is as subtle as a flying mallet. If you’ve seen the excellent District 9, you’ll get the idea. Blomkamp is a director who wears his heart on his celluloid sleeve, and he shouldn’t be ashamed of that.

Right, ignore all the negative things I’ve said and accentuate the positive, I want this film to make a boat load of money so that Blomkamp can make another big budget sci-fi film - he deserves the chance, because the sad thing is Elysium still feels important in a summer of dull, uninteresting would-be blockbusters, where a modest un-ambitious sequel, Despicable Me 2, has cleaned up nicely, thank you.

Reviewed on: 11 Aug 2013
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In a futuristic world, a man who is confined to the slums of earth, finds the space station retreat of the rich offers his only hope of survival.
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