Film Review by Tom Hunt
Note: The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of RetoxMagazine.com
Four years ago Neill Blomkamp taught us how fantastic swearing was in the South African accent. It's 2013 and he's back to show us again, with a little message about social class as well, with his new film, Elysium, which sees Damon, Foster and Copley shine.
For fans of District 9 you could love Elysium just as much with its near parallel story arc to Blomkamp's predecessor. Elysium, which is set in the year 2154 sees the world living mostly in famine and decay, while the richest of the rich live in orbit of Earth on a man-made space station, Elysium. And that is the way the rich and powerful want it to stay, while on Earth people are dying, suffering endlessly as citizens are treated without respect and like disposable objects by the robots that have been put in place to govern them. The rich stay in their little plot of paradise without having to bat an eyelid about the problems faced down on Earth.
Above: Elysium film poster.
Matt Damon stars as Max, a man who dreams of making it to Elysium. As a child he meets Frey, and he promises her one day they'll make it. Now all grown up, life hasn't gone according to plan for Max who is living in futuristic, broken down L.A. He's on parole and vowing to go straight. He has an altercation with a couple of drones, who misjudge his sarcasm for violent behaviour and break his arm. While at the hospital he runs into his old friend Frey (Alice Braga), and there's history as clear as day between them. After going back to work and being exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, Max must rapidly speed up his plans to make it to Elysium if he's to survive. The only snag, trigger happy Secretary of Defence (Jodie Foster) simply won't allow ships to get to Elysium, often employing her very menacing (and illegal) mercenary on Earth, Kruger (Sharlto Copley), to shoot down the ships. With parts of the plot so similar to District 9, it's a race that goes down to the wire for Max and a group of smuggler/hackers to get to Elysium.
From the trailer Elysium looks like the sort of film where you expect Matt Damon to be a fully fledged super robot, where in actual fact he spends most of his time on his ass, vulnerable, scared and very human. Add in to the mix the lovely surprise performance from Sharlto Copley, which is in stark contrast from his District 9 performance and let Jodie Foster cap it all off with a unique performance in a role that, in the most complimentary of ways, makes you want to punch her in the face. Blomkamp clearly hasn't lost any of his desire to bring his message to the world about social class and privilege, which is just as evident here as it was 4 years ago, that the poor are living in torrid conditions and it's about time the world opened their eyes to it.
Regular screen collaborator Sharlto Copley completely steals the show here from Matt Damon as the fantastic, ruthless maniac Kruger. Without knowing he's actually a part of the film (as it seems to have been kept quiet) it takes about 2 minutes of screen time to actually realise it is Copley, and what a treat it is when the penny drops. Copley needed another big performance such as this after the disappointment of the A-Team 3 years back – although he was one of the shinning lights of the film – and with some big projects coming up, this has well and truly put him back on the radar. Jodie Foster also just edges ahead of Damon in her role which helps her take biggest b***h of the year award, and we also get some strong supporting performances from William Fichtner and Wagner Moura.
For a film with glamorous and futuristic elements, Elysium is far from a sci-fi heavy film, instead using great subtlety that leaves you aware of its presence, without being overbearing, which will please moviegoers not so big on the genre. While it might not be as aesthetically pleasing as other sci-fi films out this year such as Oblivion, Blomkamp makes up for it with fantastic characters, meaningful messages and his gritty antagonizing futuristic vision.
With fantastic direction and a fine cast, Elysium will please the action/sci-fi fans.