Movie Review: Elysium

Set in the year 2154, where the extremely wealthy have taken refuge from a polluted and ruined Earth, a man reluctantly takes on a mission that could bring equality to the two worlds.

Director Neill Blomkamp, best known for his surprise 2009 alien/sci-fi hit District 9, again brings a gritty sci-fi action movie with a social message to the big screen.  But, can Blomkamp recreate the financial and critical success of District 9 while maintaining a fresh story?  Read on to find out.

A combination of South African slums and Tijuana, Earth in the year 2154 is full of sickness, crime, overpopulation, and extreme poverty.  Matt Damon’s character, Max, barely scrapes by a living working in an extremely hazardous factory that makes human-like robot peacekeepers.  The very same model of robot peacekeepers that break Max’s arm for cracking a joke one morning.

Elysium, on the other hand, is a perfectly manicured Garden of Eden.  The society, vigilantly protected by war-hawk Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and an army of peacekeeper robots, is full of garden parties, classical music, and people sunning themselves.  Citizens of Elysium have access to medical services that cure them of any and all sickness in a matter of seconds, extending their lifetimes.  The society is also noticeably absent of minorities, other than Elysium President Patel (Faran Tahir).

Matt Damon is no stranger to action movies, having starred in the Bourne Trilogy, and his likeable manner and experience really pays off in the movie.  Max is forced to seek medical care on Elysium after an industrial accident leaves him with days to live.  Given a military-issue exoskeleton suit, he is able to fight his way onto Elysium.

Jodie Foster does an adequate job as Defense Secretary Delacourt, but ultimately you feel like any middle-aged actress could have gotten a short haircut, acted like a cross between Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Gekko, and pulled it off.

Representing a direct threat to Delacourt and the Elysium way of life, sleeper Earth agent Kruger is activated to stop Max at all costs.  Portrayed by Sharlto Copley, Kruger is a maniacal and ruthless killer whose only joy in life is death and destruction.

You may remember Copley from his role in District 9, where he portrayed a mild mannered paper pusher thrown into an extraordinary situation.  Copley is very engrossing and steals the scenes he is in.  He has great range as an actor.

Though many social issues are played with in Elysium, substandard medical care is the major issue tackled.  Many characters on Earth have injuries or are suffering from an illness that would otherwise be easily cured on Elysium.  Hospitals on Earth are horribly understaffed and under equipped, even though the technology to heal all ailments exists.

The great thing about Blomkamp’s movies is that he incorporates social dynamics and social issues from our world and puts them in his movies.  These are all issues that we face in our society, just magnified and spotlighted.

So, should you take your (older) children to see Elysium?  As always, that is up to you, parents.  However, here are some things you should consider.

Elysium is rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence and language throughout.

There is no sexuality or nudity in the film.

There is strong violence and gore in the film which will be too much for younger viewers to handle.  Several people are dismembered by explosions.   Several men are shot.  A man is stabbed through the chest with a sword.  Max has the exoskeleton suit literally bolted to his body.  A woman is stabbed in the throat with a piece of glass.

There is strong language in the film, with several F-words and other, more mild obscenities.

Whether you agree with the social message or not, it’s nice to see a director pour some passion into a film.

Elysium gets 4/5 stars.

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