Review: Elysium

Poster for 2013 sci-fi film Elysium

Genre: Sci-Fi
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 21st August 2013
Runtime: 109 minutes
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Wagner Moura
Synopsis: When the planet is polluted, rich people escape to an enormous space station. But when one poor person is given days to live, they head for Elysium.

 

 

 

Matt Damon has had quite a year. He has travelled from going green in fracking drama Promised Land to going gay in Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra and now to going bald in dystopian sci-fi Elysium. Director Neill Blomkamp, fresh from his acclaimed debut District 9, has produced a glittering vision of the future that battles with huge societal issues and could well be the best Hollywood film of the year.

It’s the year 2154 and population over-crowding has caused a major class divide. The poor are made to fight for scraps on the polluted planet, whilst the rich want for nothing on the titular space station. After an industrial accident, Max (Damon) is given days to live and decides he needs to get to Elysium, with the help of criminal Spider (Wagner Moura). Meanwhile, Elysium’s Defence Secretary (Jodie Foster) is hoping to stage a presidential coup, utilising her hired thug on Earth. (Sharlto Copley)

Blomkamp was always going to struggle to recapture the low budget magic of District 9. However, working with an A-list star and three times the money, Blomkamp hasn’t sacrificed any of that power for Elysium. The film is full of great performances, stellar direction and debate-triggering musings on healthcare, immigration and class war.

Wisely, Elysium moves at a breakneck pace. Its central conceit is explained quickly and the action is divided neatly between the heavily polluted Earth and the glistening Elysium. The violence is shocking, but is never so stylised that the film loses its grounded sense of realism. At times, this feels less like a sci-fi idea and more like the logical conclusion of human society’s current trajectory.

This is an ideas movie, first and foremost. For all of the fast-paced action and adventure, Elysium is packed with ideas. The Med Bays highlight the hypocrisies of the US healthcare system and the aggressive response to anyone attempting to access Elysium shows the tyranny of excessive immigration controls.

Matt Damon’s performance bristles with wit and intensity, both before and after he is fitted with a technologically advanced exoskeleton and his tender relationship with childhood sweetheart Frey (an underused Alice Braga) is one of the film’s highlights. Some have criticised his character’s development, but it makes perfect sense given his experiences in the final act of Elysium.

Even more impressive is Sharlto Copley as a sinister mercenary. His snarling portrayal of the character fits perfectly and makes the scenes featuring his character fizz off the screen. His strong South African accent gives him an otherworldly feel against the stark Americanism of the space station that makes him seem immediately out of place – as if he is a working class contaminant in a middle class world.

This year’s entry in the “Intelligent Ideas-Based Sci-Fi” genre (see also: Looper, Source Code, Inception) is an absolute winner. It also lends itself very nicely to a sequel that could tackle a whole different set of ideas. In a summer where comedy has been where the real fun lies, Blomkamp has taken his audience to cinematic Elysium.

10/10

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

14 thoughts on “Review: Elysium

  • 28/08/2013 at 00:09
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    Sorry, this is a rant…

    The only way the film sets itself up nicely for any sequel is in the fact that literally NOTHING has been solved by the end of it. Every motherfucker on Earth is going to want to fly immediately to Elysium. There won’t be enough ships to get them there. Wars will break out. And when they do go, Elysium (which is pretty tiny compared to Earth) will become hugely overpopulated. The upper classes will be slaughtered. The medical supplies, shelter and food will be fought over. With no human being able to be arrested, no government, no policing, chaos will ensue. Gangs will take control of the supplies and the ships, and in the end only the very rich will be able to afford them. They’ll have to build a second, even larger Elysium and the same shit’s gonna go down again… Christ, I genuinely would have been happier if Matt Damon had bled out when they grafted that stupid bionic suit on to his skeleton… he was obviously delirious by the end of the film… I preferred it when he didn’t give a crap about anybody but himself… Honestly, this film is nothing but sentimental tripe with no original ideas and a flimsy quick-fix solution that only a child could come up with.

    Reply
    • 28/08/2013 at 00:32
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      And how interesting a sequel would that be? That was exactly my point.

      Reply
    • 28/08/2013 at 00:52
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      Chris says the film is ‘sentimantal tripe with no original ideas and a flimsy quick-fix solution that a child could come up with’ and Tom replies with ‘And how interesting a sequel would that be’.
      Tom, I don’t think you should be allowed to review films.

      Reply
      • 28/08/2013 at 01:00
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        And you’ve entirely missed the point of what I said. Congratulations.

        I disagree completely that the film was sentimental tripe etc and actually think that the solution which was derided as a “quick-fix” could be explored in a sequel for EXACTLY that reason.

        The problem with how Elysium ended is that, despite it seeming utopian on the surface, it would fall apart, exactly as Chris explained. And watching that destruction and chaos would make for a very interesting critique of the idea of perfect equality.

        I’m going to ignore the ad hominem attack on my reviewing ability. I’ve long given up arguing with that sort of thing online. I’m only interested in having an informed discussion about cinema.

        Reply
        • 28/08/2013 at 01:07
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          Personally I don’t think it would be interesting watching that destruction of the idea of social equality. Pretty predictable, maybe a little trite. You seem to have a pretty good idea of what would happen, right? Why? Because the ideas are a bit run of the mill.

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          • 28/08/2013 at 01:08
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            Well if there’s one film maker who could put a different spin on it all, it’s probably Neill Blomkamp.

          • 28/08/2013 at 01:11
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            Maybe. I have to say I didn’t like District 9 though. And for the record, I haven’t seen Elysium. Based on this thread I am now intrigued.

          • 28/08/2013 at 01:18
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            It’s worth a go. The general opinion seems to be that it’s fine, but I haven’t really found anyone yet who enjoyed it as much as I did.

          • 28/08/2013 at 01:21
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            I’ve certainly heard a lot… I don’t think I will enjoy it, but now I feel like I must see it.

  • 28/08/2013 at 00:42
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    not exactly “a whole different set of ideas” though. More like, the exact same ideas. Tedious, cliched and frustratingly predictable ideas. Bad ideas.

    Reply
    • 28/08/2013 at 00:45
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      Well it’d be about the problems of a socialist utopia of perfect equality rather than the issues of segregation.

      Reply
      • 28/08/2013 at 00:52
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        Sorry, I realise I posted that reply in the wrong place so this conversation doesn’t read properly. Needles to say, I’ve put my hand in the hornet’s nest and now I’m up to my elbows in Beas

        Reply
        • 28/08/2013 at 01:01
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          There’s nothing I like more than a vibrant discussion. Disagreement makes for an interesting response.

          Reply
  • 29/08/2013 at 10:43
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    Reblogged this on My take and commented:
    For those who like this kinda stuff. 🙂

    Reply

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