Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie Review: "Elysium" (2013)

Movie: "Elysium"
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
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In the year 2154, Earth is overpopulated and diseased, crime-ridden and ruined, corrupted by a robot police state controlled from afar. The richest citizens have fled to a habitat space station called Elysium, where any ailment can be fixed, there is no crime, no pollution, there are robot servants at every beck and call, and where everything is peaceful. Many citizens of Earth attempt the dangerous mission to Elysium but are obliterated in the process. These citizens are not in search of money, but rather medical treatment for the sick and dying; simply lying on a "Miracle bed" in Elysium can fix any medical condition so long as the brain is functioning.

Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is a former felon who has given up his life of crime in an attempt to live on the straight and narrow and to do what he can do make ends meet. After an accident at his job, Max is exposed to high levels of radiation poisoning and is given 5 days to live. In an attempt to save himself, Max takes one final job with an old associate, Spider (Wagner Moura) and is surgically infused to an exoskeleton, giving him super strength and the ability to download information to his brain, like the people of Elysium can. His task is to kidnap an inhabitant of Elysium and retrieve pertinent information such as bank codes, passwords, etc. Max suggests the target be his old boss, John Carlyle (William Fitchner), who unbeknownst to Max, has overwritten the entire coding system for Elysium in order to stage a coup against the current president to place Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) in charge. When the information is stolen by Max and his team, Delacourt activates Kruger, a psychopathic rapist/murderer/general bad dude to do Elysium's dirty work undercover to obtain the information back from Max's brain.

"District 9" director Neill Blomkamp has a niche for movies with a social message, staged in a sci-fi arena. His special effects are ridiculously amazing, and his future looks like one that is more than achievable (unfortunately). Matt Damon is a huge driving force throughout the film, as is Sharlto Copley, who has been in both of Blomkamp's films. Jodie Foster was quite fierce in this movie, and proves that a head villain doesn't always have to be a man in order to be evil. It's good to see her acting again, whether good or bad.

What was interesting to me was the different tonalities spoken between people who lived on Elysium (very prim and proper with perfect diction and a slight accent) and people who were from Earth (like people speak today). A few critiques: some viewers might find the Elysium inhabitant's accents off-putting. Also, the shaking camera during action scenes were annoying and jarring to the eye.

Now, onto the social commentary of the film. Blomkamp did a great job showcasing current issues plaguing the world today: overpopulation, poverty, illness and lack medical care for the poor, segregation, immigration, basically class warfare. He manages to bring about these subjects about in an enjoyable way, yet allows viewers to take these problems to heart, if they so choose.

The thing is, "District 9" was so good, it's going to be hard for Blomkamp to attain that same level of greatness again. While he is obviously a fabulous writer and director, everything he does will be constantly compared back to his directorial debut in "District 9," which received not one, but four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. With that being said, "Elysium" isn't as good as the former, but it's sure as hell entertaining.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 66%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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