Friday, 16 August 2013

Elysium (2013)


I have been anticipating the release of Elysium ever since seeing the trailers, and for two main reasons. First, it's is a blockbuster sci-fi film from somewhere other than Marvel or DC (I’ve had enough for 2013), and second, Neil Blomkamp in only his second feature is all over this one, writing, directing, and co-producing…and if you loved District 9 as much as I did…you know the potential this film has.

Elysium opens with a brief overview of a dystopian Earth (we start in a very dusty L.A.) where pollution and overcrowding have finally made the planet a global slum. The privileged have since moved to a lush habitat in space, 'Elysium'. The structure is magnificent and the habitat is modeled maybe after a lovely gated community in Beverly Hills. On Elysium there is plenty of sun, food, luxury, and an army of robotic servants to perform every menial task. More importantly they have Med-Pods, tanning booth-like machines that can cure any ailment known to man… including cancer. These Med-Pods play an important part in the social undertones of this film. Earth-dwellers pay violent criminals large sums of money to be smuggled into Elysium and cured in these Med-Pods. Think healthcare debate 2154. While some critics have given it flak for not emphasizing the social justice aspect of the story, there was really nothing more to be said without falling into tedium.

Max (Matt Damon) is a semi-reformed local criminal who through a freak radiation accident at his factory job…has only days to live…unless he can get to Elysium. This ignites a period of indentured servitude as he is forced to perform an intellectual property heist in exchange for safe passage to Elysium. The story is busted wide open there and the bullets start flying.

Where I feel it succeeds is the weapons and 22nd century technology Blomkamp drags out for Elysium. Weapons, vehicles, the exoskeleton suit, they are all done in a way that makes them remarkably believable to the viewer, while being incredibly 'cool'. At a running time of less than two hours, Blomkamp had to leave out a lot of details as to the origins of Elysium and it’s technology…a small price to pay for all the other bad ass weaponry. The director has a real niche in his ability to amaze us with portrayals of future technology and I look forward to more films like this from the South African. 

Jodie Foster is decent as Elysium’s callous Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt, although I’ve no idea what type of accent she is attempting to pull off. Copley is absolutely magnificent as Agent Kruger, an off the grid sadistic hit man of sorts that Delacourt (Foster) utilizes to neutralize Max’s (Damon) migration to Elysium. Enough cannot be said of Copley’s performance here…you can almost smell him through the screen he’s so menacing. Matt Damon delivers as usual with Max, I am used to seeing him in trouble against bureaucratic forces from the Bourne series. However, it was great to see him lace up his sci-fi boots for the first time and I hope he continues to do so; the genre can always use such monumental talent.

Elysium is shot beautifully, the characters are very well casted (despite Foster's ludicrous accent), and the CGI and props are top notch. I think it will please most sci-fi lovers and many sci-fi skeptics, so I must recommend it. What it lacks in occupy wall street rhetoric it more than makes up for in really cool shit to look at. 

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