Elysium is the second film from visionary director Neill Blomkamp. After District 9’s success, both critically and financially, it is to be Blomkamp’s trial by fire. Not as daring as District 9, yet much more dazzling to look at, Elysium solidifies Blomkamp’s talent as a director who is willing to take risks and be different.
It’s the year 2154. Earth and its resources have mostly been depleted and most people live in a dystopian sort of future. The rich though have decided to take their money and flee… to a “perfect” world created just within earth’s orbit, called Elysium. People from earth desperately try to gain access to Elysium and its medical technology, while the citizens of Elysium stop at nothing to keep illegals out.
We follow Max (Damon), an ex-con who has left his old ways behind and tries to make a living while working in a factory. An accident exposes Max to a lethal dose of radiation. He learns he has only 5 days to live, and this sets him off on his desperate struggle to get to Elysium to heal himself with their technology. The Secretary of defence, Delacourt (Foster) learns of Max’s plans and initializes her own plans to stop him at all costs. These plans include eliciting the help of a brutal mercenary Kruger (Copley) and his thugs to thwart Max’s plans.
Blomkamp has a unique vision of the future in his movies and his style is very evident in Elysium. There simply isn’t anything else that looks like this film. The stark differences between earth and Elysium are viscerally and emotionally shown, and you can quickly understand why people are struggling to get to Elysium. He isn’t scared to tackle some of the harder topics and you can easily see underlying similarities to current South America and USA with the immigration issues and the US seemingly the holy land to South Americans. The fact that Max and the people around him all talk Spanish and Portuguese, look like Latin American people and live in settlements that look like future favelas, reinforces those views.
Acting is a bit of a hit and miss thing, with Jodie Foster and William Fichtner delivering atrocious performances. Matt Damon carries the film with a stern yet honest performance and Sharlto Copley is good as the bad guy. At times Copley tries too hard to mimic his District 9, Wikus Van Der Merwe character, but he is indeed a good actor. Blomkamp is a very good director and a true visionary, as is cemented by Elysium. He is easily the most talented South African director working today. I’m really looking forward to see what the future holds for him and his unique take on films. Blomkamp’s writing skills though have their limitations. While Elysium stands on an interesting premise, it struggles to get all the ingredients together and this is where Elysium struggles to be the movie it’s intended to be.
Although not perfect, Elysium is definitely worth a look. The effects are different and spectacular, the world created unique and watching Damon and Copley going at each other a treat.