Elysium (2013)

ElysiumWhen Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is involved in a workplace accident — he is subjected to lethal levels of radiation while labouring on one of Armadyne Corp’s assembly lines — he is told that he only has five days to live. Having made a promise to childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga) that he would one day take her to Elysium, a disease-free paradise orbiting the planet, he suddenly needs to fast-track his plans so that he might use the satellite’s technology to cure himself, using an exoskeleton as a crutch. Up on Elysium, however, Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is preparing to stage a coup, and has called upon her right hand man (Sharlto Copley) to collect important information from a contact on Earth: Armadyne CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner), and the man Max blames for his condition.

When District 9 opened in 2009 its director Neill Blomkamp was hailed by many as the next big thing in independent science fiction cinema. But while District 9 was a triumph in viral marketing, technically accomplished and mindbogglingly impressive given the production’s moderate $30 million budget, it wasn’t a particularly likeable film. Whatever his latest project Elysium‘s faults may be, and it certainly has issues, it is a far more enjoyable experience.

Eschewing extra-terrestrial prawns in favour of an utopic satellite, Elysium tells a much more human story than its predecessor. Matt Damon is superb in the role of Max Da Costa, a desperate figure who is in for the worst five days of his or anyone else’s life. Alice Braga, meanwhile, does extraordinary work with a very ordinary character, giving her glorified damsel in distress a depth that she maybe doesn’t deserve. Ultimately, and perhaps inevitably, its District 9‘s Sharlto Copley who steals the show as mercenary Kruger, who has cybernetic implants of his own.

Although indeed enjoyable, that doesn’t necessarily mean Elysium is always an easy watch. Despite the obvious differences, Blomkamp has retained the hard edge that set — and continues to set — his previous film apart from the Avatars, After Earths and Oblivions that the genre is perhaps best known for. There are elements of Elysium that are pure body horror; it explores a very human fear of bio-mechanical advancement in a vein similar to Star Trek VIII: First Contact, but uses the freedom provided by its 15 rating to push the surgical terror to the next level, beyond the reach of even the Borg collective. There is one scene in particular, involving Kruger and one of those beds from Prometheus, that is particularly gruesome.

Unfortunately, there are elements of Elysium that weaken its overall impact. Everything feels just a little too convenient, with the script regularly requiring characters to casually bump into one another, and to keep bumping into one another until the action is finally moved off planet. There’s also a moment towards the end where Elysium’s androids, which until that point provided tertiary antagonism, disappear the moment they are no longer needed. What jars most, however, is the under-use of Jodi Foster, particularly given the actress’ prominence in the film’s poster campaign. Copley is the film’s true villain, with Foster merely left to strut around Elysium explaining the plot into an ear piece.

Elysium is a very good movie, and continues to develop the themes of segregation and humanity introduced in District 9 while also developing characters that are this time as sympathetic as they are interesting. The film may not have the same element of surprise as its predecessor, but it doesn’t really need it. Besides, this is summer 2013, and we’ll take whatever we can get.

4-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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