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Movie Review: 'Elysium'


Starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Rated PG-13

Neill Blomkamp made everyone take notice with District 9.  Sadly, I didn’t go see the movie until about 2 months into its release.   At first glance, at least for me, it didn’t seem like anything really worthwhile and the trailers seem to tout more of the fact that Peter Jackson was a producer on the movie.  But District 9 was deceptively simple and had quite a bit to say and all of it pretty fascinating.  Needless to say I really liked the movie and so did a lot of other people as it was nominated for 4 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay).  So how in the world would Blomkamp follow up a film that while it takes some directors years to achieve, he did it his first time out? Well you take your time and you follow it up with an action movie of course.

Elysium, on the surface, looks like it has a lot to say, but in reality it doesn’t.  But don’t worry, that’s not a bad thing.  Elysium is straight forward in its message, which is actually quite refreshing.  And while the movie may have been a better achievement had Blomkamp decided to dig a little deeper into his story, just the fact that he was able to make a movie that doesn’t have one dull moment is in my opinion a bigger and better accomplishment.  But Elysium, after seeing the trailers, didn’t get me super excited to see its offerings.   Maybe it was the fact that the movie portrayed itself as something was going to get too muddled with its message.   Maybe it was trying to envision Sharlto Copley as a bad guy.  Whatever it was, I wasn’t hooked.  But boy was I wrong.  I’m just glad it didn’t take me 2 months to figure out. 

Elysium is set in the year 2154.  The world is divided between the have’s and the have not’s  The have’s like on a circular space city called Elysium, where life is bright (at least on the surface) and no one is ever sick (thanks to medical portals that treat you instantly for whatever sickness you have.  It’s where Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) lives.  But she feels that the politics are ruining the serene life of Elysium and she wants to run things her way.   The less fortunate live on Earth, where Los Angeles looks like a third world country it’s where Max (Matt Damon) is trying to live a life that isn’t run by criminal activity.  Max works at a factory building robots and after an accident that not only exposes him to radiation, but that leaves him with only 5 days to live, Max needs to get to Elysium so his life can continue on.   Max’s mission takes on a greater importance when Frey (Alice Braga), who has a long history with Max, asks him to take her daughter to Elysium so she can be rid of the leukemia that is slowly taking her life.   But the only way Max can get to Elysium is by getting back into the criminal world by agreeing to help kidnap and extract information (for the betterment of the people living on Earth) from John Carlyle (William Fichtner) a prominent business man who has agreed to help Delacourt in her plan create an upheaval on Elysium

That may seem like a movie that is going to have a lot to say but Blomkamp (who also wrote the film), gives every character a very clear and straightforward agenda.   Max agrees to extract information to save his life and the lives of others.  He agrees to help out his friend’s daughter.  Delacourt wants to rid the current establishment for her own personal gain.  And to do so, she enlists the help of a rogue agent named Kruger (Sharlto Copley) who just may be one of the better bad guys to come across the movie screen in quite some time.  His agenda is clear as well.  After being terminated for helping Delacourt on another matter, he decides to stage his own coup.   Blomkamp, instead of getting into the politics of everything, just lets these worlds collide; becoming the best action movie I’ve seen this year.  And since Blomkamp is such a great director, Elysium doesn’t waste time moving from scene to scene and thanks to a very clear directive, you’re never really left wondering about certain actions or dialogue given by a character, you know exactly what is going on. 

But you know what, in the end I kind of wanted more out of this story, because if Blomkamp had decided to dig a little deeper, I’m sure what he had to say would’ve been just as fascinating as District 9.  But that’s a minor quibble as Elysium, as it stands, is a really good and exciting film. So a big thanks to Mr. Blomkamp for bringing some excitement back into the summer movie season, you have no idea how much this was needed.  

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