Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“I need to get to Elysium,” says Max (Matt Damon), a man who’s desperate to save himself and might be the key to saving all of mankind in the science fiction thriller Elysium.
The year is 2154 and the Earth is an overpopulated wasteland with people living and working practically on top of each other, struggling to stay alive and being policed by patrol droids. The rich and powerful live out in space on a pristine space station called Elysium, a beautiful Garden of Eden where any sickness – including cancer – can be quickly cured. On Elysium, Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is in charge of security and enforcing the anti-immigration laws to prevent any people from Earth from reaching paradise on the space station. That doesn’t stop some from Earth from trying to escape the poverty and crime running rampant and for those who are critically ill from trying to get to Elysium to use the state-of-art medicine.
When Max, a down-on-his-luck blue collar worker, has an accident at work which leaves him facing his own mortality, he quickly decides to join with a small group of revolutionists to find a way to get to Elysium. The leader of the rebels believes that Max might just be able to not only save himself but free everyone on Earth from the control and tyranny of those in charge on Elysium.
Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9), Elysium is a creative science fiction thriller that has a strong cast but drags between its hectic action scenes. Matt Damon, who obviously worked out and buffed up to portray Max, is a one-note hero who is only interested in saving himself until near the end of the film, which makes him a fairly unsympathetic character throughout much of the movie. Jodie Foster delivers a stilted and wooden performance as Delacourt, a military commander who believes in keeping all residents of Earth out of Elysium no matter what it takes. It’s the worst performance in the film.
The best thing about Elysium is Sharlto Copley’s over-the-top performance as Kruger, a mercenary who carries out Delacourt’s horrific orders against the citizens of Earth and eventually hunts Max to stop him from his mission. He’s a villain who unfortunately deserves a stronger and more interesting hero to fight against.
The look and design of the film is extremely similar to the original production design in Blomkamp’s first film District 9 which makes it repetitive and not all that interesting. The action scenes are extremely chaotic with hand-held cameras and jerky cuts resulting in movement that it becomes increasingly difficult for the audience to follow. The pacing of the film is also incredibly slow between the action scenes which makes Elysium feel much longer than an hour and 50 minutes.
With its over-obvious message about class distinction and immigration and its unimpressive action scenes, Elysium ends up being nothing more than a second-rate science fiction tale that is sure to have the movie-going audience wishing they were watching District 9 again instead.
Elysium is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout.
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