Susan Granger's review of 'Elysium'
Published 3:09 pm, Friday, August 9, 2013
Poverty, racism and social class inequality are creatively propelling issues for 33-year-old South African-born writer/director Neill Blomkamp, who catapulted into the limelight with his first feature, "District 9" (2009), an apartheid parable nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Set in Los Angeles in 2154, this action-thriller depicts Earth with two distinct societies. Most of the population is forced to live and work in sprawling, crime-riddled slums on the squalid, overpopulated, polluted planet, while the very wealthy dwell on a luxurious space station called Elysium, hovering high above.
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When an ex-con/factory worker, Max (Matt Damon), is exposed to fatal radiation, the only way he and his childhood orphanage friend, Frey (Alice Braga), a nurse with a leuke-mia-stricken daughter, can survive is to get on a shuttle to Elysium, where medical re-atomizers heal all ailments instantly.
With only five days left to live, Max teams up with a sleazy gangster, Spider (Wagner Moura), gets fitted with a protective, metallic exoskeleton, and taps into the brain of a corrupt corporate executive, John Carlyle (William Fichtner), in order to download secret data to overthrow Elysium's autocratic Defense Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her sadistic henchman, Kruger (Sharlto Copley), and open the celestial sanctuary to the suffering masses of humanity.
Making a strong, if heavy-handed, political statement, Blomkamp's FX visuals are innovative and dazzling but
the story is so frustratingly illogical, irrational and fragmented by repeated flashbacks that it's impossible to suspend disbelief.
According to "Entertainment Weekly," Blomkamp's inspiration was a visit to an impoverished area of Tijuana, where hapless Mexicans watched floodlights across the border in the U.S., and he based his Elysium concept on Beverly Hills and Malibu.
Exuding sheer determination as the compassionate, Spanish-speaking everyman, Damon
miraculously survives most of the maudlin mayhem. Armani-clad Foster speaks flawless French as the cold, calculating villain, but "District 9's" Copley's garbled Dutch-inflected dialogue is almost impossible to decipher.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Elysium" is an energetic, if sociologically simplistic 6, another violent, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi spectacle.