Definition of Elysium: A place or state of perfect happiness.
Touted as the last big Sci-Fi movie of the summer, Elysium turns out to be a good film.
I have to admit, that I was a little apprehensive seeing this film after I learned that it was directed by Neill Blomkamp, who also directed District 9, a film that I started watching, but had no desire to finish after I had gotten about 45 minutes in. I not only managed to stay with this film, but really found myself enjoying it for the story.
The story is set in two locations; a ruined earth where all the population has been left to survive as best they can, and a space station called Elysium where the rich and powerful have moved to enjoy a very high quality of life. One theme that was prevalent throughout the film is the lack of medical care for those on the planet while everyone on Elysium has a unit in their home that will diagnose and instantly cure any malady that a citizen might suffer from.
Matt Damon stars as Max Da Costa, a former criminal type who has been paroled after serving time for car theft and armed robbery. As a parolee, he is in Los Angeles just trying to make a living as best he can working in a robot factory. The robots the helps to assemble are put into a chamber where they are irradiated. The door to the chamber gets jammed by a pallet. Da Costa is sent into the chamber to clear the jam and is trapped inside as the door closes and the irradiation cycle begins. He takes a full dose of radiation and learns that he will die in five days.
In the meantime, people from the planet try to get to Elysium for a chance at a better life and/or to cure diseases that cannot be cured on earth. Three shuttles that are dispatched by a futuristic coyote named Spider, loaded with “illegals” are fired upon at the orders of Jessica Delacourt, the person in charge of security on Elysium. Elysium has no weapons of its own and so Delacourt has her hired henchman, Kruger fire missiles from earth, destroying two of the three shuttles. The people of the shuttle that makes it through lands and the people on board are either killed or captured by robotic police, but one person does manage to get her daughter treated on one of the scanning machines. President Patel (played by Faran Tahir – Capt. Robau from Star Trek 2009) is displeased with the way that Delacourt handled the situation and threatens to fire her and insists that she no longer use Kruger’s services.
As a result of the sanctions imposed by the president, Delacourt decides to stage a coup and asks the programmer of the Elysium station to write a subroutine to re-boot the system on Elysium so she can take over as president and preserve the idyllic conditions the way she sees fit. The programmer, John Carlyle sets to work on his reboot program.
Back on earth, Da Costa seeks Spider’s help to get to Elysium to be cured of his radiation poisoning. Spider agrees, but it comes with a price. Spider tells Da Costa that he is to take get the programs that include passwords from Carlyle by uploading them into his own head. Da Costa Agrees.
Carlyle writes the subroutine that will reboot Elysium, and uploads it into his own brain and leaves for Elysium. Da Costa shoots down Carlyle’s shuttle and steals the information and learns that he has gotten more than he has bargained for.
Knowing what has been taken from Carlyle, Delacourt reinstates and directs Kruger to kill Da costa, but to make sure that nothing happens to his brain, because in effect, Da Costa now carries the key to complete control over Elysium.
Kruger searches and finds a childhood friend of Da Costa’s, Frey, and her daughter who is dying from leukemia. Da Costa gives himself up to Kruger and all head for Elysium. Delacourt is killed by Kruger, and decides that he is going to be in charge of the station, but Da Costa dispatches him. The program is uploaded to the Elysium computers, and the reboot happens. Da Costa dies as a result of the upload, but Frey’s daughter is cured because Spider inputs that everyone, including those on earth are to be considered citizens of Elysium.
I heard many say that this film is way too predictable to be good. While I agree that the ultimate outcome of the film is predictable (everyone knows that Da Costa is going to be successful) it is the way in which he achieves success not for himself, but for all of the people. I also thought that there was enough mis-direction in the story to make sure that this wasn’t predictable as to how Da Costa would become the hero of the film.
Matt Damon turned his usual fine performance as the action/adventure hero. Jodie Foster played her part as the cold-calculating power hungry executive quite well also. The rest of the main cast fulfilled their parts adequately. I particularly enjoyed Tahir’s performance as the president, however short, he did come across as being quite, well, presidential. I would really like to see him in more roles with better developed characters as he seems to have some good acting chops. I was also impressed with Sharlto Copley’s performance as the tough as nails, merciless, and cruel Kruger. He was very convincing in his role and was the one character that I loved to hate in the film.
The visuals in this film were well done as the space station actually looked real whenever it was pictured. There was never offered any explanation on how the atmosphere was maintained on the inside surface of the wheel, but that wouldn’t have been necessary to the story, it is just one of the questions that came to mind as I watched this.
Elysium definitely has an undercurrent of social and political commentary, but we are not beaten over the head with it as the story unfolds. Blomkamp is said to have claimed that his purpose in telling this story was to convey a message of the future speaking to the present. While showing how class structure in the future might determine the dispensation of medical care was very present in the film, it doesn’t play as a political statement, but just as a part of the story. I also found it interesting that the Los Angeles of the future was almost entirely made up of people of Hispanic descent, while all of those on Elysium were causations. I am wondering is perhaps if other parts of Blomkamp’s vision of the future don’t have concentrations of other races in other regions; I didn’t notice any large Asian or African-American representation in this film, with the exception of Faran Tahir in his role as president.
Elysium most definitely earns its ‘R’ rating for the use of hard language and a few quite bloody violent scenes. Despite this, it is a well-acted, well directed story that unfolds logically and with very little stopping of action to prevent the story moving forward.
Well, there it is…